Skip to main content

Jesper Thilo’s Selmer Mark VI Tenor Saxophone up for Auction

Press release   •   Jul 04, 2018 07:20 UTC

From left to right: Ben Webster, Holger Laumann, Finn Odderskov, unknown baritone saxophonist, Jesper Thilo and Dexter Gordon. Location: “Jazzhus Tagskægget” in Aarhus (1967-73).

While the streets and music venues of Copenhagen overflow with jazz tunes during this summer's Copenhagen Jazz Festival (6-15 July), the musician Jesper Thilo’s Selmer Saxophone will be exhibited in one of Bruun Rasmussen's windows at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. The Saxophone is proof of a musical friendship and collaboration between two major jazz legends, Danish Jesper Thilo and American Ben Webster, who met each other in Copenhagen during the 1960s. This iconic tenor saxophone can now be yours when it comes under the hammer at the international auction in mid-September.

Thilo’s tenor saxophone was made at the Selmer factory outside Paris in 1967. Originally, the American saxophonist Ben Webster (1909-73) ordered and tested two saxophones that were supposed to be the replacement for his “Old Betsy”, which was almost worn out. Webster had been lucky enough to get his fingers on two Mark VIs with low production numbers – known today as "Ancient Horns" – but he only needed one, so Thilo was given the chance to buy the other.

Today, Ben Webster is regarded as one of the greatest jazz saxophonists – on par with Coleman Hawkins. Webster achieved his breakthrough playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra in New York in 1940-43 and 1948-49. He arrived in Denmark in January 1965, which at the time was a vibrant international jazz metropolis. Here he performed at the "Jazzhus Montmartre" and eventually settled down in the city, where he lived until his death in 1973. During these years he was a soloist in different orchestras, including Arnvid Meyer’s Orchestra and the Danish Broadcast Company’s (DR) Big Band.

It was during this period that Thilo and Webster met each other since Thilo himself found success with his tenor saxophone in Arnvid Meyer's Orchestra in 1960-64 and 1967-74. After Webster's death in 1973, a group of jazz fans joined forces to form the "The Ben Webster Foundation", which is funded by the royalties earned from Ben Webster's recordings. In 1977, Jesper Thilo was the first to receive the "Ben Webster Prize", which is awarded to young jazz talents each year. Thilo still plays concerts and can be experienced during this year’s Jazz Festival in Copenhagen, where he will also receive two prestigious musical prizes: the Palæ Bar’s Jazz prize and the H.C. Lumbye Prize.

You can watch and listen to Ben Webster and Jesper Thilo in these videos:

Ben Webster plays "Tenderly"

Jesper Thilo plays "Over the Rainbow"

Jesper Thilo plays "Cottontail" (Ben Webster's signature tune)

Thilo's Saxophone on Display

Jesper Thilo's tenor saxophone will be on display in one of Bruun Rasmussen’s windows at Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival (6-15 July). The Saxophone can also be viewed from 13 to 17 September in connection with the international auction held from 18 to 27 September.

Press photo:

Selmer Mark VI (1967). Tenor saxophone No. M140974, engraved with current owner's signature "Jesper Thilo". These types of saxophones with low production numbers are today famous for their fine sound and are known under the moniker "Ancient Horns". Originally acquired by Ben Webster directly from the Selmer factory in 1967. Hereafter acquired by the current owner Jesper Thilo. Estimate: DKK 100,000.


Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is one of Scandinavia’s leading international auction houses, and one of Denmark’s oldest. It all started on 6 October 1948, when Arne Bruun Rasmussen conducted the first traditional auction in the saleroom at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. Today, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen stands at the helm of the family-run business together with the third generation of the family, his son Frederik and daughter Alexa, and the company’s CEO Jakob Dupont.

In 2004, the first online auction was launched, and today the auction house has expanded to include departments in Copenhagen and Aarhus and representations in Sweden, Germany, England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are put up for auction each year at the traditional auctions and daily online auctions. Here you can bid on everything from art, antiques, modern design and jewellery to books, coins, stamps, wine and weaponry.