Chick Corea

Chick Corea
Corea performing in 2019
Corea performing in 2019
Background information
Birth nameArmando Anthony Corea
Born(1941-06-12)June 12, 1941[1]
Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedFebruary 9, 2021(2021-02-09) (aged 79)
Tampa Bay, Florida, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • bandleader
Years active1962–2021[2]
Associated acts

Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea (June 12, 1941 – February 9, 2021) was an American jazz composer, keyboardist, bandleader, and occasional percussionist.[3][4] His compositions "Spain", "500 Miles High", "La Fiesta", "Armando's Rhumba" and "Windows" are widely considered jazz standards.[5] As a member of Miles Davis's band in the late 1960s, he participated in the birth of jazz fusion. In the 1970s he formed Return to Forever.[4] Along with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, he is considered one of the foremost jazz pianists of the post-John Coltrane era.[6]

Corea continued to collaborate frequently while exploring different musical styles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He won 25 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times.[7]

Early life and education

Armando Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to parents Anna (née Zaccone) and Armando J. Corea.[3][8] He was of southern Italian descent, his father having been born to an immigrant from Albi comune, in the Province of Catanzaro in the Calabria region.[9][10] His father, a jazz trumpeter who led a Dixieland band in Boston in the 1930s and 1940s, introduced him to the piano at the age of four.[11] Surrounded by jazz, he was influenced at an early age by bebop and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, and Lester Young. When he was eight, he took up drums, which would influence his use of the piano as a percussion instrument.

Corea developed his piano skills by exploring music on his own. A notable influence was concert pianist Salvatore Sullo, from whom Corea started taking lessons at age eight and who introduced him to classical music, helping spark his interest in musical composition. He also spent several years as a performer and soloist for the St. Rose Scarlet Lancers, a drum and bugle corps based in Chelsea.

Given a black tuxedo by his father, he started playing gigs when in high school. He enjoyed listening to Herb Pomeroy's band at the time and had a trio that played Horace Silver's music at a local jazz club. He moved to New York City, where he studied music at Columbia University, then transferred to the Juilliard School. He quit after finding both disappointing, but remained in New York City.


Corea began his professional career in the early 1960s with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz. He recorded his debut album, Tones for Joan's Bones, in 1966 (released in 1968). Two years later he released a trio album, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vitous.[4]

In live performances, he frequently processed the output of his electric piano with a device called a ring modulator. Using this style, he appeared on multiple Miles Davis albums, including Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West, and Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East. His live performances with the Davis band continued into 1970, with the final touring band he was part of consisting of saxophonist Steve Grossman, electric organist Keith Jarrett, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Airto Moreira, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and, of course, Davis on trumpet.[4]

Holland and Corea departed the Davis band at the same time to form their own free jazz group, Circle, also featuring multi-reed player Anthony Braxton and drummer Barry Altschul. This band was active from 1970 to 1971, and recorded on Blue Note and ECM. Aside from exploring an atonal style, Corea sometimes reached into the body of the piano and plucked the strings. In 1971, Corea decided to work in a solo context, recording the sessions that became Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 and Piano Improvisations Vol. 2 for ECM in April of that year.

The concept of communication with an audience became a big thing for me at the time. The reason I was using that concept so much at that point in my life – in 1968, 1969 or so – was because it was a discovery for me. I grew up kind of only thinking how much fun it was to tinkle on the piano and not noticing that what I did had an effect on others. I did not even think about a relationship to an audience, really, until way later.[12]

Jazz fusion

Corea in 1976

Named after their eponymous 1972 album, Corea's Return to Forever band relied on both acoustic and electronic instrumentation and initially drew upon Latin American music styles more than rock music. On their first two records, Return to Forever consisted of Flora Purim on vocals and percussion, Joe Farrell on flute and soprano saxophone, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, and Stanley Clarke on acoustic double bass.[4] Drummer Lenny White and guitarist Bill Connors later joined Corea and Clarke to form a second version of the group, which blended the earlier Latin music elements with rock and funk-oriented sounds partially inspired by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, led by his Bitches Brew bandmate John McLaughlin. This incarnation of the group recorded the album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, before Connors' replacement by Al Di Meola, who was present on the subsequent Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery, and Romantic Warrior.

In 1976, Corea issued My Spanish Heart, influenced by Latin American music and featuring vocalist Gayle Moran (Corea's wife) and electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. The album combined jazz and flamenco, supported by Minimoog synthesizer and a horn section.

Duet projects

In the 1970s, Corea started working with vibraphonist Gary Burton, with whom he recorded several duet albums for ECM, including 1972's Crystal Silence. They reunited in 2006 for a concert tour. A new record called The New Crystal Silence was issued in 2008 and won a Grammy Award in 2009. The package includes a disc of duets and another disc with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Toward the end of the 1970s, Corea embarked on a series of concerts with fellow pianist Herbie Hancock. These concerts were presented in elegant settings with both artists dressed formally and performing on concert grand pianos. The two played each other's compositions, as well as pieces by other composers such as Béla Bartók, and duets. In 1982, Corea performed The Meeting, a live duet with the classical pianist Friedrich Gulda.

Corea performs with Béla Fleck on March 1, 2008.

In December 2007, Corea recorded a duet album, The Enchantment, with banjoist Béla Fleck.[13] Fleck and Corea toured extensively for the album in 2007. Fleck was nominated in the Best Instrumental Composition category at the 49th Grammy Awards for the track "Spectacle".[14]

In 2008, Corea collaborated with Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara on the live album Duet (Chick Corea and Hiromi). The duo played a concert at Tokyo's Budokan arena on April 30.[15]

In 2015, he reprised the duet concert series with Hancock, again sticking to a dueling-piano format, though both now integrated synthesizers into their repertoire. The first concert in this series was at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle and included improvisations, compositions by the duo, and standards by other composers.[16]

Later work

Corea's other bands included the Chick Corea Elektric Band, its trio reduction called “Akoustic Band”, Origin, and its trio reduction called the New Trio. Corea signed a record deal with GRP Records in 1986 which led to the release of ten albums between 1986 and 1994, seven with the Elektric Band, two with the Akoustic Band, and a solo album, Expressions.

The Akoustic Band released a self-titled album in 1989 and a live follow-up, Alive in 1991, both featuring John Patitucci on bass and Dave Weckl on drums. It marked a return to traditional jazz trio instrumentation in Corea's career, and the bulk of his subsequent recordings have featured acoustic piano.[17] They provided the music for the 1986 Pixar short Luxo Jr. with their song "The Game Maker".

In 1992, Corea started his own label, Stretch Records.[4]

In 2001, the Chick Corea New Trio, with bassist Avishai Cohen, and drummer Jeff Ballard, released the album Past, Present & Futures. The eleven-song album includes only one standard (Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz"). The rest of the tunes are Corea originals. He participated in 1998's Like Minds with old associates Gary Burton on vibraphone, Dave Holland on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and Pat Metheny on guitars.

During the later part of his career, Corea also explored contemporary classical music. He composed his first piano concerto – and an adaptation of his signature piece, "Spain", for a full symphony orchestra – and performed it in 1999 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Five years later he composed his first work without keyboards: his String Quartet No. 1 was written for the Orion String Quartet and performed by them at 2004's Summerfest in Wisconsin.

Corea continued recording fusion albums such as To the Stars (2004) and Ultimate Adventure (2006). The latter won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Chick Corea's 75th birthday. Corea and John McLaughlin, Blue Note Jazz Club, New York City, December 10, 2016.

In 2008, the third version of Return to Forever (Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, and Al Di Meola) reunited for a worldwide tour. The reunion received positive reviews from jazz and mainstream publications.[18] Most of the group's studio recordings were re-released on the compilation Return to Forever: The Anthology to coincide with the tour. A concert DVD recorded during their performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was released in May 2009. He also worked on a collaboration CD with the vocal group The Manhattan Transfer.

A new group, the Five Peace Band, began a world tour in October 2008. The ensemble included John McLaughlin whom Corea had previously worked with in Miles Davis's late 1960s bands, including the group that recorded Davis's classic album Bitches Brew. Joining Corea and McLaughlin were saxophonist Kenny Garrett and bassist Christian McBride. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta played with the band in Europe and on select North American dates; Brian Blade played all dates in Asia and Australia, and most dates in North America. The vast reach of Corea's music was celebrated in a 2011 retrospective with Corea guesting with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; a New York Times reviewer had high praise for the occasion: "Mr. Corea was masterly with the other musicians, absorbing the rhythm and feeding the soloists. It sounded like a band, and Mr. Corea had no need to dominate; his authority was clear without raising volume."[19]

A new band, Chick Corea & The Vigil, featured Corea with bassist Hadrien Feraud, Marcus Gilmore on drums (carrying on from his grandfather, Roy Haynes), saxes, flute, and bass clarinet from Origin vet Tim Garland, and guitarist Charles Altura.

Corea celebrated his 75th birthday in 2016 by playing with more than 20 different groups during a six-week stand at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, New York City. "I pretty well ignore the numbers that make up 'age'. It seems to be the best way to go. I have always just concentrated on having the most fun I can with the adventure of music."[20]

Personal life

Corea married his second wife vocalist/pianist Gayle Moran in 1972. He had two children, Thaddeus and Liana, with his first wife, Joanie; his first marriage ended in divorce.[21][22]

In 1968, Corea read Dianetics, author L. Ron Hubbard's most well known self-help book. Further, Corea developed an interest in Hubbard's other works in the early 1970s: "I came into contact with L. Ron Hubbard's material in 1968 with Dianetics and it kind of opened my mind up and it got me into seeing that my potential for communication was a lot greater than I thought it was.[23]

Corea said that Scientology became a profound influence on his musical direction in the early 1970s: "I no longer wanted to satisfy myself. I really want to connect with the world and make my music mean something to people."[24] He also introduced his colleague Stanley Clarke to the movement.[25] With Clarke,[26] Corea played on Space Jazz: The Soundtrack of the Book Battlefield Earth, a 1982 album to accompany L. Ron Hubbard's novel Battlefield Earth.[27] The Vinyl Factory commented, "if this isn't one of jazz's worst, it's certainly its craziest". Corea also contributed to their album The Joy of Creating in 2001.[26]

Corea was excluded from a concert during the 1993 World Championships in Athletics in Stuttgart, Germany. The concert's organizers excluded Corea after the state government of Baden-Württemberg had announced it would review its subsidies for events featuring avowed members of Scientology.[28][29] After Corea's complaint against this policy before the administrative court was unsuccessful in 1996,[30] members of the United States Congress, in a letter to the German government, denounced the ban as a violation of Corea's human rights.[31] Corea was not banned from performing in Germany, however, and had several appearances at the government-supported International Jazz Festival in Burghausen, where he was awarded a plaque in Burghausen's "Street of Fame" in 2011.[32]

Corea died of a rare form of cancer, which had only been recently diagnosed, at his home in the Tampa Bay area of Florida on February 9, 2021, at age 79.[3][33][34]


Awards and honors

Corea's 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 1997, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.[35] In 2010, he was named Doctor Honoris Causa at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).[36]

Grammy Awards

Corea won 25 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times.[7]

Year Category Album or song
1976 Best Jazz Performance by a Group No Mystery (with Return to Forever)
1977 Best Instrumental Arrangement "Leprechaun's Dream"
1977 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group The Leprechaun
1979 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group Friends
1980 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group Duet (with Gary Burton)
1982 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 (with Gary Burton)
1989 Best R&B Instrumental Performance "Light Years"
1990 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group Chick Corea Akoustic Band
1999 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo "Rhumbata" with Gary Burton
2000 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group Like Minds
2001 Best Instrumental Arrangement "Spain for Sextet & Orchestra"
2004 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo "Matrix"
2007 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group The Ultimate Adventure
2007 Best Instrumental Arrangement "Three Ghouls"
2008 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group The New Crystal Silence (with Gary Burton)
2010 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group Five Peace Band Live
2012 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "500 Miles High"[37]
2012 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Forever
2013 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "Hot House"
2013 Best Instrumental Composition "Mozart Goes Dancing"
2015 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "Fingerprints"
2015 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Trilogy
2020 Best Latin Jazz Album Antidote (with The Spanish Heart Band)
2021 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Trilogy 2 (with Christian McBride and Brian Blade)
2021 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "All Blues"

Latin Grammy Awards

Year Award Album/song
2007 Best Instrumental Album The Enchantment (with Béla Fleck)
2011 Best Instrumental Album Forever (with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White)

See also


  1. ^ "Today in history". ABC News. Associated Press. June 12, 2014.
  2. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Chick Corea". AllMusic. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Siemaszko, Corky (February 12, 2021). "Jazz Keyboard Virtuoso Chick Corea Dead from Cancer Age 79". NBC.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Yanow, Scott. "Chick Corea - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  5. ^ "Chick Corea". Blue Note. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  6. ^ Heckman, Don (August 18, 2001). "Playing in His Key". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Chick Corea". November 28, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (February 11, 2021). "Chick Corea, Jazz Keyboardist and Innovator, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  9. ^ "Chick Corea Interview".
  10. ^ "Musica Jazz, Italy – Chick Corea".
  11. ^ "Chick Corea On Piano Jazz". WWNO. January 20, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  12. ^ "Chick Corea Interview". Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  13. ^ Levine, Doug (April 24, 2007). "Chick Corea, Bela Fleck Collaborate On New CD". VOA News. Voice of America. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
  14. ^ "Concord | Independent Music". Archived from the original on November 17, 2008.
  15. ^ "Website undergoing maintenance |". January 26, 2009. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009.
  16. ^ de Barros, Paul (March 15, 2015). "Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea prove masters know how to have fun". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  18. ^ Chinen, Nate (August 3, 2008). "The Return of Return to Forever". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  19. ^ Ratliff, Ben (January 23, 2011). "A Jazz Man Returns to His Past". The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  20. ^ "Chick Corea, 75th Birthday Celebration, October 19 thru December 11, 2016," New York: Blue Note
  21. ^ Zimmerman, Brian (August 21, 2019). "On the Road with Chick: A Jazz Globetrotter Shares His Favorite Spots and Travel Tips".
  22. ^ "Corea, Chick |".
  23. ^ Corea, Chick (February 13, 2016). "Chick Corea, on 'The Ultimate Adventure'". NPR Music. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  24. ^ Down Beat, October 21, 1976, p.47. "I no longer wanted to satisfy myself. I really want to connect with the world and make my music mean something to people."
  25. ^ Ortega, Tony. "Stanley Clarke, Scientology celebrity". The Underground Bunker.
  26. ^ a b Ediriwira, Amar (October 4, 2016). "How L. Ron Hubbard made the craziest jazz record ever". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  27. ^ Morris, Chris (February 11, 2021). "Chick Corea, Jazz Fusion Pioneer, Dies at 79". Variety. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  28. ^ "Biographie bei". Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  29. ^ Werner Bloch (January 23, 1999). "Chick Corea: Scientology-Zeuge gegen Deutschland: Ein peinlicher Auftritt in Berlin: Chick Coreas Konzert im Namen von Scientology". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  30. ^ VGH Baden-Württemberg, Urteil vom 15. Oktober 1996, Az. 10 S 176/96
  31. ^ Hennessey, Mike (January 18, 2011). "U.S. lawmakers rip Germany's ban of Corea show". Billboard. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  32. ^ Haserer, Wolfgang (January 18, 2011). "Musikalisch unumstritten". OVB Online. Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  33. ^ Shteamer, Hank (February 11, 2021). "Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist Who Expanded the Possibilities of the Genre, Dead at 79". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  34. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (February 11, 2021). "Chick Corea, Jazz Keyboardist and Innovator, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  35. ^ "Chick Corea" (PDF). The Kurland Agency. November 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  36. ^ "Chick Corea utnevnt til æresdoktor – NRK Trøndelag – NRK Nyheter". Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  37. ^ "Indies/And the Nominees Are". Billboard (Jan 7-21): 38, 44, 47. January 7, 2012.

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