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Jesper Thilo

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Subject: Thad Jones, Aura (Miles Davis album), Roland Hanna, Ernie Wilkins, List of bebop musicians
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Jesper Thilo

Jesper Thilo
Birth name Jesper Thilo
Born (1941-11-28) 28 November 1941 (age 72)
Origin DenmarkCopenhagen, Denmark
Genres Jazz
Occupations Saxophonist, bandleader
Instruments Tenor saxophones
Alto saxophone
Associated acts Miles Davis
Website Storyville Records, Music Mecca

Jesper Thilo (born 28 November 1941) is a Danish jazz musician, mainly known as a tenor saxophonist, alto saxophonist and clarinetist. He is considered to be one of the top European straight-ahead jazz musicians of the post-1970 period.[1] Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins were early influences while he later develioed a highly personly sound reminiscent of Zoot Sims.

Thilo first recorded as a leader for Storyville Records in 1973 and in the 1980s on Storyville his sidemen at various times included Kenny Drew, Clark Terry and Harry "Sweets" Edison. In the 1980s he also played in the Ernie Wilkins's Almost Big Band. Thilo also appears on the Miles Davis album Aura recorded in 1985. In 1991 he worked with Hank Jones in a quintet.


Jesper Thilo was born on Christianshavn in Copenhagen in 1941 to a pianist-actress mother and a father who was an architect.[2] He started to play clarinet at age 11 and from 1955 to 1960 he played clarinet and trombone in various amateur Dixieland jazz bands with occasional paid jobs as a musician. Early he knew that he wanted to become a professional jazz musician but to get an education he chose to study classical cvlarinet at the Royal Danish Academy of Music[3]

While still a student at the Academy, Thilo joined Arnved Meyer's orchestra where he played from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1967 to 1974 and it was Arnved Meyer who convinced him to shift to saxophone. In Meyer's band he played with musicians such as Ben Webster, Benny Carter, Harry Edison, Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins.[4] During this part of his career his virile Swing style chiefly inspired by Webster and Hawkins.[3] Besides his engagement in Meyer's orchestra, Thilo also played in his own band, a quintet which he had founded in 1965 and co-lead with Torolf Mølgaard and Bjarne Rostvold.

From 1966 to 1989 Thilo was a member of the DR Big Band where he under bandleaders such as Palle Mikkelborg and Thad Jones mainly played alto saxophone but occasionally also tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone, concert flute, clarinet or bass clarinet.[4]

Up through the 1980s he played in Ernie Wilkins' Almost Big Band. Other collaborators have included Wild Bill Davison and Niels Jørgen Steen.[4]

In 1989 he left the DR Big Band and Ernie Wilkins's orchestra to lead his own bands with members such as Søren Kristiansen, Olivier Antunes, Hugo Rasmussen og Svend-Erik Nørregaard.


As a leader


As a sideman

With Thad Jones

With Roland Hanna

With Miles Davis

  • 1989: Aura (Columbia Records)

With Scot Hamilton

  • 2012: Scott Hamilton Meets Jesper Thilo (Stunt Records)



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