Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea

Chick Corea (1941-2021) in 2019
Chick Corea (1941-2021) in 2019

We mark the birth on June 12, 1941 – 82 years ago today – of the pianist and composer Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea, in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  He died of cancer after a brief illness on February 9, 2021, at his home just outside of Tampa Bay, Florida, at the age of 79.

Chick Corea’s spectacularly varied, 50-plus year career as a professional musician offers an object lesson in both the necessity and futility of labels.  

“Spectacularly varied” is the operative phrase in the sentence above.  In the mid-1960s Corea became deeply involved in Latin American music, having broken in with the Cuban bandleader and percussionist Mongo Santamaria (1917-2003) and the Puerto Rican-American bandleader and percussionist Willie Bobo (whose real name was Willie Correa, no relation, 1934-1983).  

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Corea played with the Miles Davis (1926-1991) band (he played piano on seven of Miles Davis’ albums, including Davis’ classic Bitches Brew album of 1969).  As such, the Chick-Meister was a full-participant in Davis’ electrified experiment in fusion, in synthesizing jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. In 1970 and 1971 Corea led his own, avant-garde, free jazz band called Circle. In 1972, Corea formed his jazz/Latin fusion progressive rock band Return to Forever, which performed both electronic and acoustic instrument music that fused jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and Latin music.  

Along the way Corea played and recorded bossa nova with João Gilberto and Stan Getz; he fused jazz and flamenco (shall we call it “jazzmenco”?) with the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and the great flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia.…

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