Chick Corea, who has died at the age of 79, has been a comedic jazz pianist, multi-talented composer and pioneer in jazz-rock fusion since the 1970s. He was highly regarded for his work across a variety of genres from rock and Latin to classical, and was also highly regarded for his enjoyment of live performance, a quality which allowed him to tour non-stop for five decades without losing his hatred of anxious gratitude as he stepped onto the stage.
He could make and make solo piano miniatures in the style of Béla Bartók or write and arrange a symphony orchestra and four strings, and was equally good in the element. has it among rock-fire fires lit by synths, electric guitar, thunder knock, and its own knot for memorable melodies. But he was probably mostly at home in a timeless jazz form of improvising trio with bass and drums.
He played with some of the biggest jazz mainstream stars in his early years – including Cab Calloway, Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan – but his most notable specialization was as a side player in the late 60s with Miles Davis. Corea was a powerful presence in that talented circle of young musicians who helped Davis deliver Bitches Brew sessions, which were very electronic, redefining the sound of jazz.
In the early 70s he studied atonal chamber jazz with Dave Holland, a former Davis bassist, and others, and then moved on to more capable hobbies than introverted through his experiences with Scientology. . He would experiment with Latin jazz dance pitches with his fusion band Return to Forever, thickening the sound with elements that became increasingly heavy as the decade progressed. Climbing between the feel of a rock and a more lyrical Latin-inspired beast (the 1976 album My Spanish Heart was accompanied by jazz and flamenco music), he also embarked on a series of intimate improv duets with peers such as Gary Burton, former vibraphonist Getz and piano co-star. Herbie Hancock.
By then he had brought several new routine songs to jazz musicians, including La Fiesta, Rhumba Armando, and Spain. In the 80s and 90s he courted genres on regular tours around the world and album releases with the band Elektric and his Akoustic subgroup, as well as his powerful, horned sextet Origin. Nonetheless he kept his classical jazz antennae sharp by regularly revisiting the repertoire of standards and originals, and launched the Stretch Records label to promote his own work. recording and introducing new artists.
After the turn of the millennium it turned out hard – in a reunion with old companions, versions of three new classical jazz, a leading role in Jazz at the Lincoln Center afterlife in 2011 in his honor, a steady stream of new pieces , and a powerful new band in the Vigil, launched in 2013 to blend the raw power of the previous fusion groups and the suppleness of his first lasting love, acoustically conversational jazz.
Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to Boston trumpeter and bandleader Armando Corea and his wife, Anna (nee Zaccone). Corea Sr. began directing his son’s piano studies when he was four, but also encouraged him to play the trumpet, drums and vibraphone. Chick, nicknamed by an aunt who loved to speak to him as “Cheeky”, learned classical piano from the piano piano piano concert Pops Salvatore Sullo, playing regularly with a local marching band and playing restaurant and dance jobs as a teenager.
He began formal music studies in New York at Columbia University and Juilliard music school, but soon released professional gigs – with conductors including Cuban performer Mongo Santamaria, the Blue Mitchell trumpet, and in the late 60s by Getz. He showed his writing talents on his debut album in 1967 as director, Tones For Joan’s Bones, in which Steve Swallow played bass and Woody Shaw played the trumpet. Next year’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, showed a session starring Czech bassist Miroslav Vitouš and drummer Roy Haynes, just as the newcomer paid homage to the piano form of his ancestors while thinking of exciting new ways to expand it further.
Between 1968 and 1970, in a version of Davis’s Bitches Brew lineup, he delivered drum-like chords behind the solos of Davis and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, as well as an elegant keyboard breaker that seemed to going close without falling apart. Two 1971 albums, Piano Improvisations Vols 1 & 2, studied the sound of a solo piano before Keith Jarrett became famous for a similar approach four years later, and in 1984 celebrated children’s songs influenced by Bartók Corea Corea’s talent for balancing unbridled ideas and structural shape.
While it tended to bring taste and joy when left alone with a piano and like-minded friends, Corea was actually rekindling the full, prog-rocky energy that the edits were. followed by the release of Return to Forever, including the mid-70s Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973) and Where Did I Know You Before (1974). During the new millennium he stayed on the road with various reunion bands, with a duo (including with the virtuoso bluegrass banjo Béla Fleck) and with the Vigil. At the age of 70 in 2011 he was on a month-long residency at the Blue Note club in New York prepared for a feature-length documentary and the lively and diverse music on the set-top box. The Musician: Live at the Blue Note Jazz Cafe.
He released the Latin jazz album Antidote with his Spanish Heart Band in 2019, and the following year the Trilogy 2 trio with Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums.
In 2006 Corea was named National Award for Master of Jazz Arts, and over his career he picked up 23 Grammy Awards, after being nominated 60 times.
His wife, Gayle Moran, son Thaddeus and daughter Liana are living from a previous marriage, and two grandchildren.
• Chick (Armando Anthony) Corea, musician, born June 12, 1941; died February 9, 2021