A masterful jazz pianist, Chick Corea is a celebrated performer whose influential albums have found him exploring harmonically adventurous post-bop, electric fusion, Latin traditions, and classical.
Initially emerging in the 1960s, Corea gained early notice for solo albums like 1968's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, and sideman work with artists like Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, and Stan Getz. He joined Miles Davis' first electric ensemble and appeared on the landmark 1969 album Bitches Brew. As a leader, he founded his own innovative fusion group, Return to Forever, and penned jazz standards like "Spain," "500 Miles High," "La Fiesta," and "Windows." A prolific artist, he has issued a steady stream of acclaimed albums, and earned over 20 Grammy Awards, including for albums like 1977's No Mystery, 1990's Chick Corea Akoustic Band, and 2012's Forever.
Born Armando Anthony Corea in 1941 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Corea was first introduced to the piano around age four by his father, a Dixieland-style trumpeter. By age eight, he was also playing drums. Immersed in jazz at home, he listened to an array of artists including pianists Horace Silver and Bud Powell, who were early influences. Another influence was pianist Salvatore Sullo, with whom Corea studied classical piano and composition. As a teenager, he was a member of the local St. Rose Scarlet Lancers drum and bugle corps, and started playing his own jazz gigs. After high school, he studied briefly at Columbia University and Juilliard, before leaving school to pursue his jazz career.
In 1985, Corea formed a new fusion group which debuted on the eponymous The Elektric Band and featured bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. To balance out his music, he also formed his Akoustic Trio (Chick Corea Akoustic Band) with Patitucci and Weckl a few years later. When Patitucci went out on his own in the early '90s, the personnel changed, but Corea continued leading stimulating groups (including a quartet with Patitucci and Bob Berg). During 1996-1997, Corea toured with an all-star quintet (including Kenny Garrett and Wallace Roney) that played modern versions of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk compositions as heard on Remembering Bud Powell. There were also notable sessions with vibraphonist Gary Burton, including 1997's Like Minds with Pat Metheny. Two years later, he issued his first studio album with his Origin ensemble, Change.
Corea began the 21st century by releasing a pair of solo piano records, Solo Piano: Originals and Solo Piano: Standards, in 2000, followed by Past, Present & Futures in 2001. Rendezvous in New York appeared in 2003, followed by To the Stars in 2004. The Ultimate Adventure was released in 2006. That same year, Corea released Super Trio with drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Christian McBride. In the spring of 2007, Corea released an unlikely but ultimately satisfying duet album with banjo master Béla Fleck entitled The Enchantment on Concord, followed by a Japan-only six-disc box set called Five Trios in 2008 that showcased the pianist in a handful of different trio settings. The same year, Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton released their fourth offering together, The New Crystal Silence.
The year 2008 was a busy one for Corea. He and John McLaughlin got together for the first time since they'd played together on Miles Davis' seminal Bitches Brew album. They pulled together a band with saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride for the recording Five Peace Band: Live (with another former Miles collaborator, Herbie Hancock, guesting on "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time"). Concord re-released Return to Forever's four albums issued between 1973 and 1976 (with Corea, White, Clarke, and DiMeola) -- Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery, and Romantic Warrior -- as a precursor for a reunion tour. This resulted in both a live album, entitled Returns, and a concert DVD. In 2009, Corea teamed with Japanese piano sensation Hiromi for Duet, followed by a live trio album entitled Forever with Clarke and White, culled from their "RTF Unplugged" tour. The two-disc set, issued by Concord in 2011, featured guest appearances by Chaka Khan, original RTF guitarist Connors, and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
In 2012, Corea was busy from the start. He delivered a trio recording on Concord in January entitled Further Explorations; his sidemen were Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian (both members of various Evans ensembles). Corea: The Continents Concerto for Jazz Quintet and Chamber Orchestra was issued by Deutsche Grammophone in February. In September, another duet recording with Burton, Hot House, was released by Concord. In the summer of 2013, Corea debuted his new electric band with the album The Vigil. Its members included bassist Christian McBride (though Hadrien Feraud often plays with the group live), drummer Marcus Gilmore, Tim Garland on reeds and winds, and guitarist Charles Altura. The expansive three-disc Trilogy, recorded live at stops all over the world and, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, appeared in 2014.
The pianist then reunited with longtime friend Béla Fleck for the 2015 duet album, Two, which was compiled from over seven years of their live performances together. The following year, Corea celebrated his 75th birthday with a six-week stint of shows at the Blue Note in New York city. Joined by a bevy of guests including Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, and others, the performances were released in 2017 as part of The Musician album and documentary project. Also in 2017, he joined longtime associate drummer Steve Gadd for Chinese Butterfly, which also featured Lionel Loueke, Steve Wilson, Carlitos Del Puerto, and Luisito Quintero. Trilogy 2, Corea's second collection of live recordings with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, arrived in 2018. ~ Scott Yanow & Thom Jurek, Rovi