Sels, Jack


Sels, Jack

Amberes 1961. Portrait of my city – Modern concerto for chamber orchestra (woodwinds & strings / landscape format / first print)

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Sels, Jack

Amberes 1961. Portrait of my city

Modern concerto for chamber orchestra (woodwinds & strings / landscape format / first print)

The city waltz (Larghetto)
Souvenirs in stone (Adagio)
Metropolis shout (Presto)
Shopping broads (Largo moderato)
Songs of the river
The work and march song (Andante moderato)

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 symphonic poem Amberes.

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

Jan Dewilde
Jack Sels dedicated Amberes to Antwerp, Belgium – Amberes is the Spanish name for the city of Antwerp – where he spent most of his life. Sels was one of the key figures in Antwerp’s jazz scene.

The opener of this suite is called The city waltz. This first part is a larghetto, written for the string section of the orchestra. This movement opens with a few ambivalent chords; 2 stacked tritone intervals. In addition, the double bass plays an erratically moving pizzicato melody, based on the tritone interval as well. Frequent tempo changes give it a slightly capricious character. As this movement unfolds, the harmonies move towards ever clearer tonal centres; it ends with a gospel-like voice leading. ..

Read full preface  > HERE



Score Data

Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection




First print



Special Size

210 x 297 mm landscape format

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