an image to return to the tributes main page.
to see Chick Corea with the Spanish Heart Band, 2019.
12 June 1941 – 9 February 2021
Keyboardist, bandleader and composer, Chick Corea died at
the age of 79 from a rare form of cancer which was only diagnosed
Personally, I did notice what appeared to be dramatic
weight loss over the years I photographed him, however, I attributed
this to a change of diet, or just natural weight loss as we grow
Born Armando Anthony Corea in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12,
1941, Corea began studying piano at age four. Early on in his development,
Horace Silver and Bud Powell were important piano influences while
access to the music of Beethoven and Mozart inspired his compositional
instincts. Corea’s first major professional gig was with Cab
Calloway, which came before early stints in Latin bands led by Mongo
Santamaria and Willie Bobo (1962-63). There followed important tenures
with trumpeter Blue Mitchell (1964-66), flutist Herbie Mann and
saxophonist Stan Getz before Corea made his recording debut as a
leader in 1966 with “Tones for Joan’s Bones” (which
featured trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist and flutist Joe
Farrell, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joe Chambers).
After accompanying Sarah Vaughan in 1967, Corea went into the studio
in March of 1968 and recorded “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”
with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes. That trio album
is now considered a jazz classic. In the fall of 1968, Corea replaced
Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band. In September of that
year, he played Fender Rhodes electric piano on Miles' important
and transitional recording “Filles de Kilimanjaro”,
which pointed to a fresh new direction in jazz. Between 1968 and
1970, Corea also appeared on such groundbreaking Davis recordings
as “In a Silent Way”, “Bitches Brew”, “Live-Evil”
and “Live at the Fillmore East”. He is also a key player
in Davis’ electrified ensemble that appeared before 600,000
people on August 29, 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival in England
(captured on Murray Lerner's excellent documentary, Miles Electric:
A Different Kind of Blue). Shortly after that historic concert,
both Corea and bassist Dave Holland left Miles’ group to form
the cooperative avant-garde quartet Circle with drummer Barry Altschul
and saxophonist Anthony Braxton. Though its tenure was short-lived,
Circle recorded three adventurous albums, culminating in the arresting
live double LP “Paris-Concert” (recorded on February
21, 1971 for the ECM label before Corea changed directions again.
His excellent “Piano Improvisations”, Vol. 1 and 2,
recorded over two days in April 1971 for ECM, was the first indication
that solo piano performance would become fashionable.
Toward the end of 1971, Corea formed his first edition of Return
To Forever with Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Joe Farrell on
soprano sax and flute, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion and
his wife Flora Purim on vocals.
By early 1973, Return To Forever had taken a different course.
Following the addition of electric guitarist Bill Connors and thunderous
drummer Lenny White, the group was fully fortified to embrace the
emerging fusion movement with a vengeance. A third edition of RTF
featured a four-piece brass section along with bassist Clarke, charter
RTF member Joe Farrell, drummer Gerry Brown and Chick's future wife
Gayle Moran on vocals. Together they recorded 1977's “Music
Magic” (Columbia) and the four-LP boxed set R.T.F. “Live”
(Columbia), which captured the sheer energy and excitement of the
full ensemble on tour.
The year 1982 was again marked by a flurry of creative activity
that yielded such gems as the Spanish-tinged Touchstone (featuring
flamenco guitar great Paco de Lucia and a reunion of Corea's RTF
bandmates Al Di Meola, Lenny White and Stanley Clarke on the aptly-titled
"Compadres"), the adventurous Again and Again (a quintet
date featuring the remarkable flutist Steve Kujala), Corea's ambitious
Lyric Suite for Sextet (a collaboration with vibraphonist Gary Burton
augmented by string quartet) and The Meeting (a duet encounter with
renowned classical pianist Friedrich Gulda). 1982 also marked the
formation of the Echoes of an Era band (essentially an all-star
backing band for R&B singer Chaka Khan’s first foray into
Through the remainder of the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s,
Corea returned to the fusion arena with a vengeance with his Elektric
Band, featuring drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Eric Marienthal,
bassist John Pattitucci and guitarist Frank Gambale.
By 1992, Corea had realised a lifelong goal in forming Stretch
Records. Among its early releases were projects by Bob Berg, John
Patitucci, Eddie Gomez and Robben Ford. In 1997, Corea released
a recording with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra with Bobby McFerrin
as conductor. Their second collaboration, entitled “The Mozart
Sessions” (Sony Classical) followed on the heels of their
first duet Grammy Award winning recording, 1991's “Play”
(Blue Note). That same incredibly productive year (1977), Corea
unveiled his acoustic sextet Origin (the band's self-titled debut
release was a live recording at the Blue Note club in New York)
and also teamed up with old partner Gary Burton, rekindling their
chemistry from the ‘70s on “Native Sense-The New Duets”,
which earned Corea his ninth GRAMMY® Award.
In 2001, Corea unveiled his New Trio, featuring drummer Jeff Ballard
and bassist Avishai Cohen, on “Past, Present & Futures”.
By the end of that year, Corea was engaged with his ambitious three-week
career retrospective at the Blue Note.
In 2004, Corea reunited his high-powered Elektric Band for a tour
and subsequent recording based on L. Ron Hubbard’s science
fiction novel To The Stars. And in 2005, he returned to Hubbard
for further musical inspiration, this time interpreting The Ultimate
Adventure, an exotic blend of passionate flamenco melodies, North
African and Middle Eastern grooves and adventurous improvisation.
Without doubt Chick Corea one of the most prolific composers of
the second half of the 20th century. From avant-garde to bebop,
from children’s songs to straight ahead, from hard-hitting
fusion to heady forays into classical, Corea has touched an astonishing
number of musical bases in his illustrious career. He continues
to explore and generate new material for a number of different vehicles.