Sels, Jack


Sels, Jack

Nick’s kick, Saxophone quintet, trumpet, tenor saxophone lead and rhythm section (420 x 297 mm, landscape format / first print)



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

Nick’s kick

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.

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

Jan Dewilde

Nick’s kick is one of Jack Sels’ compositions for Saxorama. The full instrumentation of Saxorama consists of 2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes, 1 baritone sax, bass, drums, piano, guitar and an extra tenor sax lead (played by Jack Sels himself). In this piece Sels adds one more part, a trumpet part to be played by Nic Fissette (1928-2009) – Hence the title Nick’s kick. Nic Fissette was one of the most talented Belgian bebop musicians and for many years one of the key figures in the BRT jazz orchestra. Nic Fissette also plays a prominent role on the soundtrack for Marc-Henri Wajnberg’s film Just Friends (1993). This film was loosely based on Sels’ life story and Michel Herr wrote its soundtrack.

Nick’s kick is a melodic up-tempo swing piece with a hint of hardbop, in which trumpet, tenorsax and drums take solos.

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 224.136). 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


Chamber Music

Performance Materials



First print



Special Size

420 x 297 mm landscape format

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