Ray Copeland

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An accomplished composer and instructor, Ray Copeland was a solid trumpeter from the '40s until the '80s in swing, bebop, hard bop, and even with stage bands. He gave many workshops and jazz history courses,…
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Artist Biography by

An accomplished composer and instructor, Ray Copeland was a solid trumpeter from the '40s until the '80s in swing, bebop, hard bop, and even with stage bands. He gave many workshops and jazz history courses, and his playing demonstrated a confident, engaging tone and crackling energy, as well as effective range and timbre. Copeland studied classical trumpet and played with various rock and pop groups as a teenager in Brooklyn. He toured in the late '40s with Mercer Ellington and Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans. Copeland played with Andy Kirk and Sy Oliver in the early '50s, and played bebop and swing with Lionel Hampton, Randy Weston, Oscar Pettiford, and others in the late '50s. He was featured in the 1959 film Kiss Her Goodbye. Copeland played in the Roxy Theater Orchestra in the late '50s and early '60s, while also working with Art Blakey, Cat Anderson, Johnny Richards, Louis Bellson, and Pearl Bailey. Copeland was one of Ella Fitzgerald's accompanists in 1965. He rejoined Weston in 1966, and toured Africa on State Department-sponsored events in 1967 and Morocco in 1970. He toured Europe with Thelonious Monk in 1968. Copeland played at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival and continued performing periodically into the '80s. He also led orchestras in New York during the '70s, and his "Classical Jazz Suite in Six Movements" composition premiered at Lincoln Center in 1970. Copeland worked in Broadway shows and toured Europe with the revue The Musical Life of Charlie Parker in 1974. His book The Ray Copeland Method and Approach to the Creative Art of Jazz Improvisation was published that same year. Copeland didn't issue any dates as a leader, but can be heard on various reissues by Monk, Weston, Blakey, and Anderson.