Ray Copeland Day

July 17, 1926 – May 18, 1984


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Trumpet player and teacher Ray Copeland was born on July 17, 1926 in Norfolk, Virginia.

An especially versatile player, he began playing swing in the 1940s with the bands of Mercer Ellington and Al Cooper.

Copeland adopted bebop as the style over-took swing as jazz’s dominant form. While never recording as a leader, he played with the likes of Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk.

After touring with Mercer Ellington in the late 1940s he worked with Andy Kirk and Sy Oliver before making the transition to bebop with Lionel Hampton, Oscar Pettiford, and others.

Known for his exuberant style he went on to perform with Art Blakey, Louis Bellson, and would accompany Pearl Bailey and Ella Fitzgerald.

He also appeared on many recording by Thelonious Monk, appearing on the well known “Monk’s Music” LP in 1956.

Copeland toured Europe as a member of Monk’s Quintet in 1968 and was featured with the group at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival.

In later years Ray Copeland began teaching jazz composition at Hampshire College, and in 1974 published the music instruction book “The Ray Copeland Method and Approach to the Creative Art of Jazz Improvisation.”

Recorded by the “Thelonious Monk Quintet” in Hackensack, New Jersey on May 11, 1954.


Thelonious Monk, piano
Ray Copeland, trumpet
Frank Foster, tenor sax
Curly Russell, bass
Art Blakey, drums


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