Jesper Thilo was the Danish saxophonist of choice for nearly all the great US jazz musicians who played Copenhagen in the 1980s. Johnny Griffin, that most demanding of tenor players, pushed him to the limit and had no hesitation in naming him a "great Dane."
Among those who included him on their recording sessios in the Danish capital were trumpeters Clark Terry and Harry "Sweets" Edison, pianist Sir Roland Hanna and trombonist Al Grey, all featured on this triple CD, as are New Yorker Kenny Drew, for many years house pianist at Montmartre, Copenhagen's No. 1 jazz venue, and drummer Billy Hart, from Washington DC. Richard Boone, a former Count Basie vocalist from Little Rock, Arkansas who emigrated to Denmark, joins Terry on his tongue-in-cheek scat number, "Mumbles."
Thilo has often been compared with Zoot Sims for his fluency and unrelenting swing. He was also greatly influenced by Ben Webster, doyen of the US exile community in Copenhagenwho is, incidentally, buried in the same cemetery as Søren Kierkegaard, author of "The Sickness Unto Death" and other light works.
Once a gangling young man with a page boy haircut and deadpan features, today, age 70, Thilo is an elder statesman of the Danish scene. He studied classical clarinet at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and has played both clarinet and trombone in Dixieland groups.
Jesper Thilo & The American Stars, however, is straight-ahead, swinging jazz, of the sort that used to be called mainstream. The stand-out tracks, both musically and in terms of atmosphere, are those recorded live at Slukefter, a jazz club in the Tivoli fairground, with Sir Roland Hanna (knighted by the President of Liberia). A great composer, two originals showcase his range: the cooking "Now and Then Blues"; and "This Time It's For Real," a lush ballad that, given the breaks, might have achieved standard status.
There are some nice moments among the numbers with Terry, always an interesting player. This session was originally released by Storyville as Tribute To Frog (1980), Frog being one of Ben Webster's nicknames. Thilo turns in a high octane "Cotton Tail" and sometimes sounds more like Webster than Webster on the great man's own "Did You Call Her Today?" and Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance."
The session with Edison produced highly competent swing, though the version of "Body And Soul" is marred by heavy-handed drumming from Svend-Erik Nørregaard.
Grey was a quintessentially happy trombonist, best remembered for his stints with Basie in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His own "I'm Hungry Sabina" and Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night In Tunisia" showcase his talents to perfection.
Throughout and on his own quartet tracks, Thilo holds his own with great aplomb, sometimes even eclipsing his distinguished guests.
CD1: Did You Call Her Today? My Romance; Just One Of Those Things;
Save Your Love For Me; Cherokee; On The Trail; Like Someone In Love;
Old Folks; Stella By Starlight; God Bless The Child; On The Sunny Side
Street. CD2: Cotton Tail; Star Dust; Body And Soul; Rose Room; Wave;
You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Blue And Sentimental; Sweets To My
Sweet; Now And Then Blues; Cherokee; Segue In C; A Night In Tunisia;
I'm Hungry Sabina; The Girl From Ipanema. CD3: Sunday; Frog Eyes;
Mumbles; This Time It's For Real; Star Eyes; Body And Soul; Just Jazz;
The Vanguard Groove; There Will Never Be
Another You; Medley: Lover Man/Embraceable You; Satin Doll;
Sophisticated Lady; Ballad For Jesper.
Jesper Thilo: tenor saxophone; Clark Terry: trumpet (CD1#1-2, CD2#1-
3); Kenny Drew: piano (CD1#1-2, CD1#3-5, CD2#1-5, CD3#12-13,);
Jesper Lundgaard: bass (CD1#1-2, CD1#6-7, CD2#1-3, CD2#6-8,
CD3#9-11); Svend-Erik Nørregaard: drums (CD1#1-2, CD1#6-7,
CD2#1-3, CD2#6-8, CD3#9-11); Mads Vinding: bass (CD1#3-5, CD1#8-9,
CD2#4-5, CD2#9-11, CD3#4-6, CD3#12-13); Billy Hart: drums (CD1#3-5,
CD2#4-5, CD3#12-13); Harry "Sweets" Edison: trumpet (CD1#6-7,
CD2#6-8, CD3#9-11); Ole "Kock" Hansen: piano (CD1#6-7, CD2#6-8,
CD3#9-11); Ole Ousen: guitar (CD1#6-7, CD2#6-8, CD3#9-11); Hugo
Rasmussen (CD1#6-7, CD2#6-8, CD3#9-11); Sir Roland Hanna: piano
(CD1#8-9, CD2#9-11, CD3#4-6); Mads Vinding: bass(CD1#8-9, CD2#9-
11, CD3#4-6); Aage Tanggaard: drums(CD1#8-9, CD2#9-11, CD3#4-6);
Al Grey: trombone (CD1#10-11. CD2#12-14. CD3#7-8); Ole Kock
Hansen: piano(CD1#10-11. CD2#12-14. CD3#7-8); Hugo Rasmussen:
bass(CD1#10-11. CD2#12-14. CD3#7-8); Alex Riel: drums(CD1#10-11.