Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Chick Corea

Dr. Bob Prescribes Chick Corea, pianist and composer

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post celebrated the birth of the American pianist and composer Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (1941-2021), in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  A good bit of that post was spent discussing Corea’s stunning versatility as a pianist and composer: he could play the piano and compose for the piano in almost any conceivable style.  This versatility was a function of his talent, of his training, and of his omnivorous musical appetite: when it came to music in general and jazz in particular, Corea consumed and internalized it all.  The result is a body of music so varied that many commentators appear to spend more time categorizing it than actually listening to it.   (I say that because if they actually listened to and thought about Corea’s music, they’d realize that for all its stylistic variety Chick Corea’s music always sounds like Chick Corea’s music, its “stylistic category” notwithstanding.)  Corea addressed this issue in an interview conducted in 2010: “I’m often asked about what others consider my diversity of tastes. Actually, the simple, most truthful and direct answer is, I never think about it. I follow my interests and find that it leads me to trying to understand other cultures and […]

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Music History Monday: Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea

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 […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Chick Corea and Béla Fleck

My Dr. Bob Prescribes post of December 25, 2018 was dedicated to one of my very favorite jazz pianists, the late, great, Dave McKenna. During the course of that post, I offered up a short list of those jazz pianists who have most powerfully influenced my own playing. (I am a designated Steinway Artist based on my abilities as a composer and as a jazz pianist, and certainly not based on my abilities – what that they are – as a concert pianist.) That short list featured, in no particular order, Erroll Garner, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Armando “Chick” Corea, Phineas Newborn Jr., Roger Kellaway, Lennie Tristano, Sal Mosca, and Dave McKenna. For our information: sooner or later, I will write posts on all of these wonderful pianists. As I pointed out on December 25, two things distinguished the jazz pianists on my list. The first is that they are all two-handed pianists who use the entire keyboard when they play. The second distinguishing factor is that these pianists are, in my opinion, at their very best when playing solo. Now don’t get me wrong: playing with a good bassist and drummer is great fun, but – pianistically […]

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Robert Greenberg Recommends — Chick Corea

It’s a standard question in a literary interview to ask an author “what books are on your bedside table.” We humans are, by our nature, voyeurs, and we can’t resist knowing what authors are themselves reading. (What we’ d REALLY like to know is what’s in their medicine cabinets and sock drawers, but that’s a question that – sadly – rarely comes up in interviews). The equivalent question for a musician would be “what music is in your car CD player/MP3player/iPod/iPhone/iPad/8-track cartridge/turntable (vinyl phreaks unite!)/gramophone (78 r.p.m. crazies unite!), or Edison cylinder Dictaphone (crazies!)”? Let’s make this personal. “Bob, dude, what’s is in your car CD player?” The answer: over the last year, way more often than not, it is the music of Chick Corea. Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, making him – today – a sprightly 72 years-old. As is so often the case with jazz musicians, Corea – unlike a concert pianist – did not hone his skills under the watchful eyes and ears of a particular set of mentors/teachers. Jazz is an oral tradition, and the only way to “learn it” is to live it: by listening to jazz […]

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