Jack the hipster. A musician's musician. The white negro from the docks. Jack Sels has been given many nicknames throughout the years. The Antwerp saxophone player who died at the mere age of 48 in 1970, remains Belgium's most mythical jazz musician, both to those who knew him during his lifetime and those who only know him from the stories - and there are quite some stories to be told about Jack Sels. Throughout his career, he would play with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Lou Bennett and Lucky Thopmson, but he remained virtually unknown outside Belgium due to his reluctance to leave Antwerp.
Almost fifty years after his death, Jack Sels remains Belgium's most intriguing jazz musician. Partly due to his limited discography, he is overlooked by a wider audience. Yet, his contribution to the development of the modern jazz scene in Belgium cannot be overestimated, and neither can his influence on his fellow musicians, to whom he was the embodiment of jazz. As vibraphone player Fats Sadi once said: 'I loved Jack. He had never studied music and didn't have the least bit of technique. But if Jack played, the gates of heaven opened. Jack was more jazz than jazz itself.'