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CHICK COREA,
1941-2021

Chick Corea, the jazz pianist who played a leading role in the fusion movement of the 1970s, died Tuesday of a rare form of cancer. He was 79.

A post on his Facebook page read: “Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do.

“He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.”

He achieved his greatest fame as the leader of Return to Forever, the band he formed after a stint with Miles Davis playing on landmarks of Davis’ electric bands, 1969’s In a Silent Way  and Bitches Brew in 1970.

RTF was created in 1971 and featured Corea on the Fender Rhodes electric piano with a revolving collection of musicians that broadened the definition of modern jazz by incorporating elements of rock, Brazilian and Spanish music. The most famous line-up included Al DiMeola on guitar and Stanley Clarke on bass, two virtuosos who hardened the lightness of the early editions RTF and emphasized lightning fast songs and extensive improvisations.  

His compositions “Spain,” “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy,” “Captain Senor Mouse” and “The Romantic Warrior” are among fusion’s gold standards.

While Return to Forever was a leading light of the fusion movement alongside the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Weather Report, Corea simultaneously made wide-ranging solo efforts. My Spanish Heart, for example, was a 1976 jazz-flamenco project; he recorded duets and toured with the vibist Gary Burton then Herbie Hancock. He also recorded solo piano improvisations for ECM.

Mostly a sideman through the 1960s, his 1968 trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs has been widely heralded as a modern jazz classic; the title track was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Corea spent the last 40 years of his life balancing electric and acoustic bands playing straight-ahead jazz rooted in bebop and music that took its cues from his 1970s work.

The 1980s were spent in electric and acoustic trios with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl; he would often work in. the trio format in the 1990s and 2000s. He formed his own label, Stretch Records, in 1992.

Corea, Clarke, DiMeola and drummer Lenny White reunited in 2008 for a critically and commercially successful global tour that coincided with reissues of the band’s albums. After that tour, he continued in the fusion vein with the Five Peace Band with John McLaughlin.

Corea famously celebrated his 75th birthday by playing with 20 different groups over six weeks at New York’s Blue Note club.

Corea won 23 Grammy Awards, more than any other jazz musician, and was nominated 67 times.  His first Grammy win came in 1976 for RTF’s No Mystery, which cracked the pop Top 40 and sold more than 500,000 copies. He most recently won last year for Best Latin Jazz Album (Antidote) and is currently nominated for Improvised Jazz Solo and Jazz Instrumental Album.

 

 

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