Copeland, Ray (M.) (Norfolk, VA, 17 July 1926 - New York, 18 May 1984)


Trumpeter, flugelhorn player, composer, and teacher


He studied classical trumpet and in his teens played with groups in Brooklyn. He toured with Mercer Ellington (1947-8) and Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans (?1948-9), but during the early 1950s worked only part-time as a trumpeter, for Andy Kirk, Sy Oliver, and others. He was featured in the film Kiss her Goodbye (1959), and in the late 1950s played bop and swing with Lionel Hampton, Randy Weston, Oscar Pettiford, and others. He was also a member of the Roxy Theater Orchestra in New York (1959-61), and played with Louie Bellson and Pearl Bailey (1962-4) and Ella Fitzgerald (1965). In 1966 he rejoined Weston, with whom he toured Africa (under the auspices of the US State Department) in 1967 and Morocco in 1970, performed at the Newport Jazz Festival (1973), and continued to play at intervals into the 1980s. He also toured Europe with Thelonious Monk (1968). During the 1970s Copeland led his own orchestras in the New York area and devoted time to composition; his Classical Jazz Suite in Six Movements was given its première at Lincoln Center in 1970. He also worked in Broadway shows, and in 1974 toured Europe with a revue, The Musical Life of Charlie Parker. Active as a teacher, Copeland gave many jazz workshops and courses on jazz history; he published The Ray Copeland Method and Approach to the Creative Art of Jazz Improvisation (St. Albans, NY, 1974). From 1979 he taught at Hampshire College.


 André Barbera


The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, © Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988