Sels, Jack


Sels, Jack

Bay’s Drum for Jazz Bigband, featuring drums (Set score & parts / 420 x 297 mm, landscape format / first print)



Jack Sels

(Berchem, 29 January 1922 – Antwerp, 21 March 1970)

Bay’s Drum

Apart from a couple of piano lessons, jazz saxophonist and composer Jack Sels was self-taught, with the phenomenal record collection he assembled in his youth as his teacher. It were mainly Lester Young’s recordings that got the young Sels started as a tenor saxophonist. In addition, the concert by the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band on 18 February 1948 at the Cercle Royal Artistique in Antwerp also made a huge impact, as well as the legendary Birth of the Cool sessions by Miles Davis’s nonet, which were crucial for his further development. These models explain why Sels started big ensembles at the beginning of his career, such as the All Stars Bop Orchestra in 1949, including a young Toots Thielemans, and the Jack Sels Chamber Music Orchestra. In 1951, he travelled to Germany to perform for the American troops, and after his return to Antwerp he played in basement pubs, dance halls and jazz clubs. In those years, he also played with stars like Nat King Cole, and in 1959 he had the opportunity to perform with his idol Lester Young in Brussels. In the meantime, he made radio programmes about jazz for the BRT, the national public-service broadcaster, and he created arrangements for the saxophone section of the BRT jazz orchestra, which at the time performed as Saxorama. However, the more rock music began to take the place of jazz, the rarer the performances became, forcing him to start working as a dock worker from 1963 onwards. He gave his last big performance in 1966 at Jazz Bilzen, but at that time he was already in poor health. On 21 March 1970, he would die suddenly of a heart attack, at only 48 years old.

Despite his great talent, he did not achieve international success, unlike his contemporaries, saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, guitarist René Thomas or Toots Thielemans. He left many arrangements and compositions, for quartet, big band and (chamber) orchestra, including this big band work Bay’s Drum.

A large part of his compositions and of his archives is housed at the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp.

Jan Dewilde

Bay’s Drum is a composition for big band, more specifically a drum feature. The composer, Jack Sels, didn’t give us an indication as to which tempo this piece should be played at, but based on the type of piece and the written drum solo, it should be a medium tempo piece, around tempo ♩140. This piece clearly shows Dizzy Gillespie influenced Sels in his writing for big band. The use of Afro-Cuban rhythms, something Dizzy Gillespie was famous for, is played out here in the drum solo.

The piece starts off with a harmonized melody in the trumpets, played in ‘Jungle Style’. Using plungers, the brass is ‘growling’ in this opening. After a written drum solo, a metric modulation starts and the quarter note from the triplet ‘becomes’ the new quarter note. The effect is, that there seems to be a tempo change; the piece speeds up into a waltz. After 12 bars of this ‘Valse’, the band returns to its original 4/4 swing. 12 bars later, the piece reaches its spectacular ending.

The title of this piece refers to clarinetist, composer and arranger Francis Bay (1914-2005). Starting in 1956, Francis Bay conducted the Flemish Broadcasting jazz- and amusement- orchestra. Sels played with Bay and wrote arrangements for him. The title is also a pun referring to the drums and the drum feature; sounding like ‘base drum’. Sels wrote another piece in which his title refers back to Francis Bay, called Bay’s Way.

Marike van Dijk

This score was published in collaboration with the Study Centre for Flemish Music ( and Labo XIX&XX, a research group of the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. Marike van Dijk edited this score based on the autographic manuscript of the Collection Albert Michiels, which is housed in the library of the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (KVC 211.573). This publication is part of the research project ‘Jack Sels (1922-1970): “the white nigger of the docks.”’


Read Flemish preface > HERE

Score Data

Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection


Solo Instrument(s) & Orchestra


First print




225 x 320 mm


Set Score & Parts – score special size)

Special Size

420 x 297 landscape format

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