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Antwerp, Belgium, 1959, Jack is a highly gifted saxophonist. Despite local renown, he has to work as a stevedore in order to survive. Jack dreams of sailing for New York, the mecca of jazz, in order to pit himself against his spiritual mentors, the great Black American jazz musicians.
But the dream won't come true without money. Jack's group, the Bop Friends, perform gigs in pathetic tea rooms or play in a big band led by the conceited and well-off Mickey Bunner. Anita, the band's sexy and beautiful vocalist, is Bunner's wife. And Jack's lover. Jack glimpses the possibility of escaping Belgium thanks to a radio contest that offers a trip to New York as first prize. The world, however, keeps on turning as usual, with its full share of joy, craziness, shouting matches and tragedy...