It is with great sadness we announce that on February 9th, Chick Corea passed away at the age of 79, from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.

There have been so many great jazz musicians over the last century, too many to debate who was the best, the greatest, or the most innovative. Purists can argue forever over these labels. There is no doubt thought that Chick Corea was one of a kind.

There is no doubt thought that Chick Corea was one of a kind.

His website, like the man himself, is a testament to what he has done, and who he is. Instagram has been deluged with pictures and tributes. He is probably best known for his work with the group, Return To Forever. He equally demonstrated a rare range of skills as a bandleader, composer, keyboard player, and occasional percussionist, as well as an incredible sideman.

One of the earliest press cuttings and references I could find for Chick was the February 1st edition of the Record for Hackensack, New Jersey. It turns out Chick was performing as part of the George Bright Quintet at the Neptune Inn, Route 4, Paramus NJ on February 11th 1962. The event was being held by the Fort Lee Young Republicans Club. Someone among the group or their management obviously had an “in” with the Young Republicans as the band were next on at the same location for the Bergen County Young Republicans on a Sunday afternoon at 2pm, May 20th, 1962. The band consisted of George Bright, tenor sax; Bobby Thomas, drums; Larry Ridley, bass; Armando (Chick) Corea, piano; Frank Parowsky; sax.

It took until 1965 for Corea to start breaking through. First up were reviews for sideman Chick Corea performed on albums by Montego Joe, Blue Mitchell and other former members of Horace Silver’s group. Phyl Garland in a review of the Blue Mitchell album “The Thing To Do” says of Corea

Certainly, there are differences, for the piano plays far less of a leading voice, with the horns taking over as protagonists. However, Chick Corea is effective on the moments when he ventures out on solos, most notably on his own original “Chick’s Tune,” a provocative reworking of the changes to “You Stepped Out Of A Dream.”

Two for the turntable, Phyl Garland – The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)26 Jun 1965, Page 13

Through 1963 and 1964, Corea regulary appeared as a sideman on recordings and live gigs. Including Sonny Stit and Hubert Laws debut album, “The Laws of Jazz.” On that album, he was again credited by his real name, Armando Corea.

Next time Chick Corea is featured in reviews is the 1965 album by Herbie Mann, “Latin Mann (Afro To Bossa To Blues).” On this album, Chick shares piano duties with Charlie Palmieri. This is one of my favorite press cuttings from the time, notably because it features a picture of Mann with hair. That’s a caption, Mann with hair plays flute.

By 1968, Corea had replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis band.

The Creed Taylor Connection

Corea recorded his first solo album in 1968, “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” produced by Sonny Lester for Solid State Records. It’s a classic and comes highly recommended. By that time, Chick Corea had recorded three of the half-dozen albums he would record, that were produced by Creed.

Soul Burst(1)– Cal TjaderVerve Records1966
Along Comes Cal – Cal TjaderVerve Records1967
Sweet Rain – Stan GetzVerve Records1967
Joe Farrell QuartetCTI Records1970
Outback – Joe FarrellCTI Records1971
Moon Germs – Joe FarrellCTI Records1973

(1)Initially the sidemen for Tjader’s 1966 “Soul Burst” album were uncredited. Credits were added to later CD versions for the February 16th. 1966 recording at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio.

A number of Corea penned tracks, including “Captain Marvel” which was on the Urbie Green, Grover Washington Jr, David Matthews album, Señor Blues, as well as Jack Wilkins little known 1983 album on CTI, “Opal”, and rereleased in 1992, again on CTI as Mexico. Corea also recorded “Creek” on Airto’s 1972 album, “Free”. This was later rereleased by Taylor and CTI, somewhat cheekily as “Return To Forever” to capitalize on the then fame of the band of the same name.

Even The Good Times Are Bad?

By 1980, even Chick Corea reached a plateau in his innovation. It was certainly around this time I first became aware of his work. Writing in the Berkeley Bard in 1980, J. N. Thomas said:

“The high point of the concert was a mediocre rendition of the Charlie Parker gem, “Relaxin’ at Camarillo.” It was like a burst of Bach at an Abba concert, and sensitively underscored the ambiguity of Corea’s present position; he would be wise to delete such unflattering comparisons from future performances.”

“If Corea always played like he played Thursday night, he’d be just another music-biz “personality” along the lines of, say, Dino Valente. That he is taken seriously at all these days is a tribute to the quality of some of his earlier music, most of which he now disowns as “incommunicative.” (One can abandon Shakespeare for “Three’s Company” on the same principle.)”

J.N. Thomas – Berkeley Barb, vol. 30, no. 14(725), 1980

Around this time, Corea had read and been influenced by L. Ron Hubbards Scientology teachings. This ultimately led to one of the more controversial points in his career. being banned from performing at the 1993 World Athletic Championships in Germany.

A Life Well Lived

Corea recorded some 90-albums, he won 23 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times, in 2006 he was named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master.

Who among us wouldn’t want to pay $6.50 to see return forever at their peak in 1977? Fairwell Chick Corea, and thank you for a life well lived!

Instead, enjoy this, from the 1975 down beat awards, here is Chick Corea, first introducing and then joining Freddie Hubbard, Airto, and Stanley Clarke.

More Information

Chick Corea Discography [via discogs]
Chick Corea [via wikipedia]
Chick Corea website []
NY Times Obituary [includes youtube playlist]
Chick Corea GRAMMYS [via]

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