Ray Willis Nance (December 10, 1913 Chicago - January 28, 1976 in New York City ) was a jazz trumpeter, violinist and singer. He is best known for his long association with band leader Duke Ellington.
Early years 
Nance led his own band in Chicago from 1932 to 1937. Then, he worked with Earl "Fatha" Hines from 1937 to 1939; and from 1939 to 1940 he worked with Horace Henderson.
Ellington tenure 
Ellington hired Nance to replace trumpeter Cootie Williams in 1940. Nance's first public performance with Ellington was the famous Fargo, North Dakota ballroom dance. Shortly after joining the band, Nance was given the trumpet solo on the first recorded version of "Take the "A" Train," which became the Ellington theme, a major hit and a jazz standard. Nance's "A Train" solo is one of the most copied and admired trumpet solos in jazz history. Indeed, when Cootie Williams returned to the band more than twenty years later, he would play Nance's solo on "A Train" almost exactly as the original.
Nance was often featured on violin and was the only violin soloist ever featured in Ellington's orchestra. He is also one of the well-known vocalists from the Ellington orchestra, having sung not the first version (that credit goes to Ivie Anderson), but arguably the definitive version of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." It was his contribution to take the previously instrumental horn riff into the lead vocal, which constitute the now infamous, "Doo wha, doo wha, doo wha, doo wha, yeah!" He was often featured as vocalist on "Jump for Joy," "Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'" and "Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don't Tease Me)". His multiple talents (trumpet, violin, vocals and also dancing) earned him the nickname "Floorshow".
Post-Ellington years 
He left the Ellington band in 1963 after having played alongside his predecessor Cootie Williams for a year. By that time, Nance had switched from trumpet to cornet. He toured and recorded in England in 1974.
Nance made a few recordings as a bandleader, and also recorded or performed with Earl Hines, Rosemary Clooney, Jaki Byard, Chico Hamilton and others.
Selected discography 
With Jaki ByardJaki Byard with Strings! (Prestige, 1968)
With Earl HinesRosetta (Jazz Archives, 1937-1939 selections)1937-1939 (Classics, 1937-1939 performances)Harlem Lament (Sony, 1937-1938 selections featuring Nance)Piano Man! (ASV, includes ca. 1937-1939 RCA selections)Earl Hines and the Duke's Men (Delmark, 1944-1947 performances)1942-1945 (Classics, 1942-1945)
With Horace HendersonHorace Henderson 1940, Fletcher Henderson 1941 (Classics, 1992)
With Duke EllingtonThe Duke at Fargo, 1940: Special 60th Anniversary Edition (Storyville, 1940 performance)Duke Ellington and His Great Vocalists (Sony, ca. 1940s)Cabin in the Sky Soundtrack (Rhino, 1942 performance)Indispensable Duke Ellington, Vol. 11-12 (1944-1946) (RCA, 1944-1946 performances) or The Best of the Complete Duke Ellington RCA Recordings, 1944-1946) (RCA, 1944-1946 performances)Ellington Uptown (includes Harlem Suite, Controversial Suite, Liberian Suite) (Columbia, 1947, 1951, 1952 performances)Masterpieces by Ellington (Columbia, 1950, 1951 performances)Ellington ‘55 (Capitol, 1955) or Jazz Profile (Blue Note, 1950s, 1960s performances)Drum is a Woman (Columbia, 1956)Black, Brown and Beige (Columbia, 1958)Newport 1958 (Columbia, 1958)First Time! The Count Meets the Duke (Columbia, 1961)Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (Impulse!, 1962)Meets Coleman Hawkins / John Coltrane (Verve, 1963)The Great Paris Concert (Atlantic, 1963)Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session (Atlantic, 1963)