Acclaimed jazz keyboardist Chick Corea has died at the age of 79. A statement from his family confirmed his death on Tuesday, February 9, “from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.”
Born Armando Corea June 12, 1941, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, his piano studies began when Corea was 4 years old. His first professional engagements included performing with Cab Calloway, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo and others. Corea’s solo debut came with the 1966 release of his album, Tones For Joan’s Bones. That decade also saw collaborations with Sarah Vaughan, Donald Byrd and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as the 1968 release of the standout album, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs that was recorded with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Miroslav Vitous.
Corea joined Miles Davis’ group in the fall of 1968, replacing Herbie Hancock in the band and contributing to the legendary jazz trumpeter’s 1968 album Filles de Kilimanjaro. Corea also appeared on Davis’ landmark 1969 album, In a Silent Way, and its equally groundbreaking follow up, 1970’s Bitches Brew. Corea was also part of a pair of Davis’ live albums, Miles Davis at Fillmore, released in 1970, and Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West, released in 1973.
In late-1971, Corea formed the influential jazz-fusion group Return To Forever with Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. Their self-titled debut was released by ECM in 1972. Several lineup changes occurred leading up to the seventh and final Return To Forever album, 1977’s Musicmagic. During the same period, Corea issued the solo albums The Leprechaun in 1975 and My Spanish Heart the following year.
In the late-1970s and early-1980s, Corea collaborated with Hancock, Chaka Khan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Steve Gadd and others, including a second trio album with Haynes and Vitous. The late-1980s saw Corea continue to explore fusion with the Elektric Band, made up of Dave Weckl, Eric Marienthal, John Patitucci and Frank Gambale that recorded five albums during the last half of the ‘80s and early part of the ’90s.
Corea founded Stretch Records in 1992 and five years later released Remembering Bud Powell featuring Joshua Redman, Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride and Haynes. Also in 1997, Chick collaborated with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra resulting in a second collaborative installment that was later released as The Mozart Sessions.
The following decades saw Corea perform his first piano concertos and collaborate with banjo master Bela Fleck, Gary Burton, Hiromi and many others. He also reunited the Elektric Band and reformed Return To Forever in 2008 and again in 2012. Corea joined fellow former Miles Davis Band member John McLaughlin in the Five Peace Band and also recorded a trio album with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White.
Corea’s project The Vigil made its debut in 2013. In 2015, Corea won two Grammy Awards, bringing his career total to 22. Many of Corea’s friends and collaborators participated in his 75th birthday celebration concerts held in 2016 at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
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