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Monk's Trumpets

Matt Lavelle By

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In 1967 Monk insisted to George Wein that Copeland join a European tour as part of a larger ensemble over Clark Terry. Both Copeland and Terry ended up with Monk in a nonet performance captured on November 3rd of that year in Paris with interesting results. Throughout the concert there is creative tension between Monk and Copeland. On "We See," Copeland starts his solo without Monk behind him and uses the melody but on the bridge resorts to total and aggressive chord change outlining. He then enters a type of abyss where he vacillates between fast playing and upper register explorations that don't sound connected to the melody or Monk himself. On "Epistrophy," Copeland switches to flugel. On his solo, Monk tries to connect with him but it sounds like they each can't hear or aren't listening to each other, much like a musical disagreement. Copeland ends up going his own way, but has a hard time owning the situation like Johnny Griffin. On "Oska-T," Copeland and Monk can't connect and the modal environment seems to feel uncomfortable for Copeland, whose playing style is based on more distinct chordal movement. Jimmy Cleveland gives us a rare chance to hear a trombone solo with Monk. He starts off very relaxed, almost too much, then switches to high range and fast technical playing, almost in retaliation against himself, or perhaps he just changed his mind or suddenly felt a different gear. Clark Terry later solos on "Evidence," mostly in a trio format in one of the most adventurous solos of his career. Clark uses his technique, sound and style aggressively challenging his own boundaries, validating Charles Mingus' claim that with Clark he could make the quintessential avant-garde album. Clark returns to solo on "Blue Monk" using his plunger where he and Monk connect effectively while both being true to themselves. The blues of course become the common ground that seems to unite all jazz musicians. Throughout this concert there seems to be a creative tension between Monk and all the horn players. As the horns are placed or pushed outside their comfort zones, they respond with technical assaults, trying to overcome the tension with virtuosity.

Getting back to Copeland, he was also a teacher and composer, premiering his "Classical Jazz suite in six movements" at Lincoln Center in 1970. In 1974 he published a book called the Ray Copeland Approach to the Creative Art of Jazz Improvisation. Copeland was also the musical director of the great album by Archie Shepp titled Attica Blues. Mr. Shepp told me that he had enormous respect for Copeland and at one point they both had to overcome physical diversity that challenged their embouchures. A last shocking fact is that while appearing on 101 recordings, Copeland never recorded as a leader. His son was the late drummer Keith Copeland.


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