“Like a runner loves to run because it feels good, I like to play the piano because it feels good.” — Chick Corea
We are saddened by the passing of jazz legend Chick Corea (1941 – 2021). With a career spanning five decades, the Massachusetts-native was a prolific artist and one of the most popular jazz musicians in American music. He was a pianist, composer, collaborator, and a 23-time Grammy-winner.
At the age of four, Corea began classical piano lessons at the request of his father (who was a Dixieland trumpet player). He later studied with concert pianist Salvatore Sullo, while also being surrounded by the sounds of jazz and early bebop. After high school, he briefly attended both Columbia University and The Juilliard School, but left both institutions because he found the curriculum limiting. In the early 1960’s, he made his foray into jazz as a sideman, which led to a celebrated, life-long career. Nicknamed “The Chameleon,” Corea crossed multiple genres including: bebop; avant-garde; classical; big-band, and Latin jazz. From 1970-71, he along with his colleagues formed Circle — a jazz fusion collective; and in 1972, he continued with a second group Return to Forever, named after the band’s debut album. Corea was a well-respected colleague, and worked with numerous noted musicians and luminaries including Mongo Santamaria, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Dave Holland. Corea always maintained a full, yearly touring schedule and his most recent recording — “Chick Corea Plays” (a wide-ranging collection of music he enjoyed performing, i.e. Scarlotti, Mozart, Gershwin, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chopin, Scriabin, Thelonious Monk, etc.) — was released last year. In 2006, Corea was named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master.
Upon his passing, Corea’s final message to his fans (below) was posted to his Facebook page:
“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. 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.”