Sunrise: June 12, 1941
Sunset: February 9, 2021
Chick Corea has been one of the most significant jazzmen of the past 30 years. Not content at any time to rest on his laurels, Corea has been involved in quite a few important musical projects and his musical curiosity has never dimmed. A masterful pianist who along with Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett was one of the top stylists to emerge after Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, Corea is also one of the few electric keyboardists to be quite individual and recognizable on synthesizers. In addition he has composed several jazz standards including “Spain,” “La Fiesta” and “Windows.”
Corea began playing piano when he was four and early on Horace Silver and Bud Powell were influences. He picked up important experience playing with the bands of Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo (1962-63), Blue Mitchell (1964-66), Herbie Mann and Stan Getz. He made his recording debut as a leader with 1966’s Tones for Joan’s Bones and his 1968 trio set (with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes) Now He Sings, Now He Sobs is considered a classic. After a short stint with Sarah Vaughan, Corea joined Miles Davis as Herbie Hancock’s gradual replacement, staying with Miles during a very important transitional period (1968-70). He was persuaded by the trumpeter to start playing electric piano and was on such significant albums as Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and Miles Davis at the Fillmore. When he left Davis, Corea at first chose to play avant-garde acoustic jazz in Circle, a quartet with Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul. But at the end of 1971 he changed directions again.
Leaving Circle, Corea played briefly with Stan Getz and then formed Return to Forever which started out as a melodic Brazilian group with Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, Airto and Flora Purim. Within a year Corea (with Clarke, Bill Connors and Lenny White) had changed Return to Forever into a pacesetting and high-powered fusion band; Al DiMeola took Connors’ place in 1974. While the music was rock-oriented, it still retained the improvisations of jazz and Corea remained quite recognizable, even under the barrage of electronics. When RTF broke up in the late ’70s, Corea retained the name for some big-band dates with Clarke. During the next few years he generally emphasized his acoustic playing and appeared in a wide variety of contexts including separate duet tours with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock, a quartet with Michael Brecker, trios with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, tributes to Thelonious Monk and even some classical music.
In 1985 Chick Corea formed a new fusion group, the Elektric Band, which eventually featured bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Frank Gambale, saxophonist Eric Marienthal and drummer Dave Weckl. To balance out his music, a few years later he formed his Akoustic Trio with Patitucci and Weckl. When Patitucci went out on his own in the early ’90s the personnel changed but Corea has continued leading stimulating groups (including a recent quartet with Patitucci and Bob Berg) up until the present time. During 1996-97 Corea toured with an all-star quintet (including Kenny Garrett and Wallace Roney) that played modern versions of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk compositions. He remains an important force in modern jazz and every phase of his development has been well-documented on records.