Chick Corea

From New World Encyclopedia

Chick Corea
Corea performing in 2019
Corea performing in 2019
Background information
Birth name Armando Anthony Corea
Born June 12 1941(1941-06-12)
Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died February 9 2021 (aged 79)
Tampa Bay, Florida, U.S.
  • Jazz
  • jazz fusion
  • avant-garde jazz
  • Latin jazz
  • classical
  • progressive rock
  • Musician
  • composer
  • bandleader
Years active 1962–2021
  • ECM
  • Polydor
  • Stretch
  • Warner Bros.
Associated acts
  • Miles Davis
  • Circle
  • Return to Forever
  • Chick Corea Elektric Band
  • Chick Corea's Akoustic Band
  • Five Peace Band
  • Gary Burton
  • Hiromi Uehara
  • Herbie Hancock
Notable instrument(s)

  • Piano
  • keyboards
  • vibraphone
  • drums

Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea (June 12, 1941 – February 9, 2021) was an American jazz composer, keyboardist, bandleader, and occasional percussionist. His compositions "Spain," "500 Miles High," "La Fiesta,", "Armando's Rhumba," and "Windows" are widely considered jazz standards. As a member of Miles Davis' band in the late 1960s, he participated in the birth of jazz fusion. In the 1970s he formed Return to Forever. 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. Corea won 25 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times.

His musical innovations and expertise influenced a wide range of musicians, both those with whom he collaborated as well as those who followed his work within and beyond the jazz genres. Corea brought joy to millions who were treated not only to outstanding musical performances but also an education in music.


Armando "Chick" Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to parents Anna (née Zaccone) and Armando J. Corea. Corky Siemaszko, [1] He was of southern Italian descent, his father having been born to an immigrant from Albi commune, in the Province of Catanzaro in the Calabria region.[2] When asked where his the name "Chick" came from, he replied: "My Auntie! She used to squeeze my cheek and go 'Chicky, Chicky, Chicky!'”[3]

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.[4] 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. Sullo 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. After high school, he moved to New York City, where he studied music at Columbia University, then transferred to the Juilliard School. He found both schools disappointing and dropped out, but remained in New York City.

In 1968, Corea read Dianetics, author L. Ron Hubbard's most well known self-help book and became a member of the Church of Scientology in the early 1970s.

Corea had two children, Thaddeus and Liana, with his first wife; his first marriage ended in divorce.[5][6] He married his second wife Gayle Moran, vocalist/pianist who was a member of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, in 1972. She continued to perform on multiple recordings with Corea.

Chick Corea died of cancer at his home in the Tampa Bay area of Florida on February 9, 2021, at age 79.[1][7]


Early years

Corea began his professional career in the early 1960s with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz, although his first major professional gig was with Cab Calloway.[8] 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.[9]

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.[9]

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 Records. 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.[10]

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.[9]

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 band mate 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

Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2008

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.[11] 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."

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.[12]

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.[13]

Other bands and later projects

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 featured acoustic piano. 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.[9]

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.[14] 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' 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. The event received high praise:

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.[15]

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.[16]


In 1968, Corea read Dianetics, author L. Ron Hubbard's most well known self-help book: 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.[17]

He developed an interest in Hubbard's other works in the early 1970s, becoming an active member of the Church of Scientology. 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.[18]

He also introduced his colleague Stanley Clarke to the movement. With Clarke, Corea played on Space Jazz: The Soundtrack of the Book Battlefield Earth, a 1982 album to accompany L. Ron Hubbard's novel Battlefield Earth. The Vinyl Factory commented, "if this isn't one of jazz's worst, it's certainly its craziest."[19] Corea also contributed to their album The Joy of Creating in 2001.

Signature of Chick Corea on the plaque in Burghausen

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. 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.[20]


Although Corea was best known as a jazz keyboardist, his influence spans a wide range of musical styles within jazz, to jazz-rock fusion, and classical compositions.

His compositions "Spain", "500 Miles High", "La Fiesta", "Armando's Rhumba" and "Windows" are widely considered jazz standards.[21] 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.[9] 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.[22]

Upon his death, the musical world paid tribute to Corea, calling him a "genius," a "musical visionary," "undisputedly one of the most incredible jazz innovators of all time," "an unparalleled maverick, a master of his craft, a trailblazer in every sense, a gentle giant" whose "musical art and genius were an education, not just a performance."[23]

The Church of Scientology presented a three-hour special tribute to Chick Corea, celebrating his life of performing and creating amazing music.[24]

At the end of his life, Chick Corea offered the following message regarding music:

I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun. ... My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly-this has been the richness of my life.[25]

Awards and honors

Corea received numerous awards and honors for his exceptional contributions to music, including the American Eagle Award for distinguished service to American music from the National Music Council in 2018. For his classical work, he earned the Piano Festival Ruhr’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2010, he received the National Service Award Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award.[26]

He became a National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Master in 2006, the highest honor for a jazz musician in the United States. He was awarded Honorary Doctorates from Berklee College of Music in 1997,[27] and from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)In 2010.[28]

Grammy Awards

Corea won 25 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times.[29] Corea's 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

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"
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)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jazz Keyboard Virtuoso Chick Corea Dead from Cancer Age 79 NBC News, February 12, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  2. Musica Jazz, Italy Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  3. Mark Towns, Chick Corea Interview JazzHouston, May 27 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  4. Grant Jackson, Chick Corea On Piano Jazz WWNO, January 18, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  5. Brian Zimmerman, On the Road with Chick: A Jazz Globetrotter Shares His Favorite Spots and Travel Tips Jazziz, August 21, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  6. Marjorie Burgess, Corea, Chick Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  7. Hank Shteamer, Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist Who Expanded the Possibilities of the Genre, Dead at 79 Rolling Stone, February 11, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  8. The Early Years: 1941-1971 Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Matt Collar, Chick Corea - Biography AllMusic. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  10. Maarten de Haan, Chick Corea Interview Artist Interviews, October 23, 1994. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  11. Doug Levine, Chick Corea, Bela Fleck Collaborate On New CD Voice of America, April 24, 2007 (archived October 27, 2009).
  12. Duet: Chick Corea & Hiromi Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  13. Paul de Barros, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea prove masters know how to have fun The Seattle Times, March 15, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  14. Nate Chinen, The Return of Return to Forever The New York Times, August 3, 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  15. Ben Ratliff, A Jazz Man Returns to His Past The New York Times, January 23, 2001. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  16. Andy Kahn, Chick Corea Announces 75th Birthday Celebration Residency At The Blue Note Jam Base, June 6, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  17. Ashley Kahn, Chick Corea, on 'The Ultimate Adventure' NPR Music, February 13, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  18. "Chick Corea, Alec Wilder, George Crumb." Down Beat Magazine, October 21, 1976.
  19. Amar Ediriwira, How L. Ron Hubbard made the craziest jazz record ever The Vinyl Factory, October 4, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  20. Stories of Standards: “Spain” by Chick Corea KUVO, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  21. Chick Corea Blue Note. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  22. Don Heckman, Playing in His Key Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2001. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  23. Chick Corea: Tributes paid to jazz 'genius' BBC News, February 12, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  24. Chick Corea Tribute Special Scientology Network. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  25. Announcement Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  26. Awards Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  27. Chick Corea The Kurland Agency. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  28. Karoline Paulsen Årrestad, Chick Corea utnevnt til æresdoktor NRK, October 27, 2010. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  29. Chick Corea Grammy Awards. Retrieved April 15, 2021.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Fellezs, Kevin. Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion. Duke University Press Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0822350477
  • Herzig, Monika. Experiencing Chick Corea: A Listener's Companion. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017. ISBN 978-1442244689
  • Waters, Keith. Postbop Jazz in the 1960s: The Compositions of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea. Oxford University Press, 2019. ISBN 978-0190604578

External links

All links retrieved December 9, 2023.


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