Composer, keyboardist, and bandleader Chick Corea has died at the age of 79. According to a post on his Facebook page, the jazz legend died from a “rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.”
“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,” the post reads. “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.”
Born Armando Anthony Corea in Massachusetts in 1941, Corea grew up in a musical household; his father, a Dixieland-style jazz trumpeter, introduced him to the piano at the age of four. He took up drums at the age of eight, which would go on to influence his use of the piano as a percussion instrument. Corea studied musical education at Columbia University in the late 1950s before transferring to Juilliard, but quit after finding both disappointing. Staying in New York, he performed with figures like Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, saxophonist Stan Getz, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and flutist Herbie Mann during the 1960s.
Corea issued his debut album Tones for Joan’s Boans in 1968. That same year, he replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band, and would go on to appear on such albums as In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson and Live-Evil. In 1970, Corea left Davis and his group to further pursue his jazz fusion vision, releasing the album Return To Forever two years later. Return To Forever became the name of his jazz-rock band, featuring Stanley Clarke on bass, Joe Farrell on flute and saxophone, Aito Moreira on drums, and Flora Purim on vocals. In addition to spearheading the emerging jazz fusion movement at the time, the band also found mainstream commercial success with what came to be known as its “classic” lineup, featuring guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White.
Corea went on to win a total of 23 Grammys over the course of his five-decades-long career, making him the fourth most nominated musician in Grammy Award history. His most recent win was for Best Latin Jazz album for Antidote last year.
The social media statement announcing his death also included words from Corea himself: “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.”
He continued: “And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. 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.”
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