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Tony G Copeland

TONY “G” COPELAND “Winter Wonderland”

Tony Copeland’s middle name is not literally “Guitar,” and his middle initial isn’t “G,” but they’ve been part of his personal and musical identity since his parents bought him his first axe way back at age one. Since then, the guitar’s been the lifeline, melodic through-line and driving force behind a wild, multi-faceted adventure that’s taken him from gospel and pop to reggae and R&B – and on to his current emergence as an acclaimed contemporary jazz artist.
Tony’s fresh new single “Winter Wonderland” finds him celebrating the holiday with a playfully grooving hybrid style that evolves from laid back, rhythmic soulful smooth jazz flow into more improvisational traditional jazz.

The dynamic, envelope pushing track was produced, engineered, mixed and arranged by guitarist’s longtime collaborator Cory James (who has worked with everyone from Usher to Angela Winbush to saxophonist Dean James), while Tony contributed additional guitar production, writing, mixing and engineering. Showcasing a powerful synergy between them, Cory performs a lively and whimsical “make the season bright” piano solo to complement Tony’s sparkling improvisations in the second half of the track. Also featuring background vocals by Carol Williams, “Winter Wonderland” is the perfect introduction to the guitarist’s powerful versatility as a musician and artist.

The holiday track lays a compelling foundation for this next phase of Tony’s career as an artist. Over the years, Frankie Beverly has been an important mentor for the guitarist, and the guitarist’s upcoming single – due early in 2020 – is his re-imagined and self produced vocal version of Maze’s “We Are One.” Cory is producing another 2020 release, the original “Classic Moments.”

Tony has had a bit of success in the smooth jazz genre before, starting with his self-produced album Panoramic View in 2010 and his 2015 follow-up Waterfalls. For Waterfalls, the guitarist teamed up in the studio with Grammy Award winner Felton Pilate, a onetime member of funk/ R&B band Con Funk Shun who has produced major albums for everyone from jazz great Stanley Clarke to rapper MC Hammer. Tony and Pilate collaborated on the R&B vocal track “I Just Want to Let You Know,” featuring Pilate’s production, writing and arranging and Tony’s lyrics, lead vocals and guitar.

Another track from that collection, “Looking Back,” was composed on the spot by Tony as he performed live at the Brass House during the 2013 South by Southwest music festival in Austin. Enrolled at the time as an audio engineering student at Houston Community College, he earned his appearance at Springboard South by winning a contest as the school’s best live performer. He earned the praise of judge Matthew Knowles (famed music industry executive and father of Beyonce), who told the audience, “This is what a performer should look like!” Not far from his hometown of Portsmouth, VA, Tony also performed the Hampton Jazz Festival in 2018 on a billwith Clarke, Norman Brown (who some compare his sound to), War, Pieces of a Dream, Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne.

The third oldest of eight siblings, Tony grew up going to church three or four times a week, cutting his teeth on gospel music, learning to play lead guitar, bass guitar and drums after his father brought a lead guitar, Fender Jazz bass, flip-top ampeg amp and a microphone home one day. Tony’s skills were so proficient by age six that he toured on and off on Bass for several years with the group “Peerless Four” and the “Spiritual Wonders”. Later, he joined his junior high school band, where he taught himself French horn and piano. Outside of church and school, here were several childhood musician friends and a local bands (Third World) and (Lock Stock and Barrel featuring his cousin Jett Wright) that inspired his own early journey as a musician.

At the age of 12 young Copelands older brother known as “Reneal” who was 13yrs. old on was seriously burned in a family house fire on halloween day, which left him scared with 3rd degree burns over 99% of his body. The two were close. His brother is currently incarcerated and has been so for over 40 years in the Virginia Penal system. Tony states, “There were times when people would laugh and a few neighborhood kids would make jokes and call my brother names which affected me deeply”. He goes on to state, “ I put all my feelings into learning to play guitar, bass, drums and singing to ease the pain which still persists today”.

Wanting to leave his small hometown with an eye towards getting discovered, Tony joined the Army and was stationed in Ft. Dix for basic training, Ft. Eustis for AIT and then Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne. During his three years in the military, he had a band that won first place in the fifth corps USAEUR show band contest. While he was touring Germany as a civilian performer, people noticed that his voice sounded like Frankie Beverly, and he was able to meet him in Offenbauch Germany and strike up a lifelong friendship/mentorship.

From their, Tony became a multi-genre, wanderlust driven dynamo, returning from the service to Portsmouth Virginia his hometown and starting the R&B/funk band BIC (Brothers Incorporated) along with his younger brother Gary on bass (deceased); moving to Richmond VA and immersing in the reggae culture as guitarist for Bad Brains lead singer “Human Right”, Saxophonist Eli King and later relocating to Charlotte, NC with the band Olu and the Crown of Honor.

After a few years away from music in the early 90s, Tony came roading back in full-on Southern Gospel mode playing for half the decade with renowned family group “The Scotts”. Then it was off to New England, where he played solo material and in churches in Connecticut and Rhode Island. He ended the 90’s playing drums for a church in Mobile, AL and returned to Houston shortly after 9/11 to focus on the gospel scene. Having earned his degree in audio engineering, while still playing and recording music, Tony is currently enrolled full time at the University of Houston Downtown, taking advantage of his veteran’s benefits by pursuing a BAAS in safety management.

“I’ve been playing music all my life, but at the same time, in the contemporary jazz genre, I’m enjoying the status of being a late bloomer!” says Tony. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but it’s always been in pursuit of working with great musicians who have inspired me. Music has always been what keeps me grounded and I’ve always loved the challenge of playing in so many different styles. That’s why when you listen to me play, you don’t hear one particular sound.

“Iam totally committed to being a smooth jazz recording artist, but I can envision playing that in the first set and then coming back and doing a whole show of R&B/blues.
“I’m a guy who has stuck to his dream. I wrote it down and made a plan and I’m happy to tell people in this industry that no matter the odds, you’ll make it if you keep going, he adds”. “One time I asked bassist Robin Duhe from Maze what I should do as far a being a musician was concerned and he said, ‘Get somewhere in the music industry and stay there." I’m here to stay now and have great peace about it.”