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Armando Anthony Corea was born on June 12, 1942 in Chelsea, Massachusetts and his father was a trumpet player who performed Dixieland Jazz in the Boston area in the 1930s and ‘40s. Chick began learning piano at the age of four and drums at eight years old. His early Jazz influences included Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell among others. Early on in his piano explorations, Corea studied with Salvatore Sullo who introduced him to classical music and composition. Chick also played drums in a Drum and Bugle Corp and its clear this had an impact on the way he approaches the piano. Corea started playing professionally in high school leading a trio that played the music of Horace Silver and also worked with Portuguese band leader Phil Barboza and drummer Bill Fitch. After high school Chick moved to New York and studied music at Columbia University for one month and The Julliard School for six months before deciding that formal education of such kind was not what he needed and he was ready to begin performing full time.
In the 1960s Chick played with Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Sarah Vaughan, Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria among others. One of the first albums Corea recorded on was Blue Mitchell’s ‘The Thing to Do’. In 1966 Chick released his first album as a leader entitled ‘Tones for Joan’s Bones’ followed a few years later by the album ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’ with Miroslav Vitous on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Corea also played with Stan Getz on his album ‘Sweet Rain’ in 1967. In the late 1960s Chick began exploring the avant garde and in 1968 he replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band. Chick can be heard on Davis’ albums ‘Filles de Kilimanjaro’, ‘In a Silent Way’, ‘Bitches Brew’, ‘Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West’, ‘Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East’ and the famous Isle of Wright concert. Corea left Miles in the early 1970s to form his own group called Circles with Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton and Barry Altschul.
In 1971 Chick formed the incredible band Return to Forever which first featured Flora Purim, Joe Farrell and Airto Moreira. In 1972 he recorded the album ‘Captain Marvel’ with many of his own band’s tunes for an album under Stan Getz’ name with Stanley Clark and Tony Williams. Return to Forever would evolve and become Corea with Clarke, Bill Conners and Lenny White before Al Di Meola replaced Connors on guitar. In 1972 they released the album ‘Light as a Feather’ which featured quite possibly Chick’s most famous tune, Spain. Also in the ‘70s Corea would collaborate on a series of duets with such great musicians as Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock and would perform duos later in his career with Bela Fleck and Hiromi Uehara among others. In the 1980s Chick began moving in a different direction with his bands Akustic Band, Elektric Band and Origins. In 1998 Corea worked with Pat Metheny, Gary Barton, Dave Holland and Roy Haynes for the album ‘Like Minds’. In the late 90s Chick delved into classical music and composed his first piano concerto; an adaptation of Spain for full orchestra and it was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra in 1999. In 2006 Corea won a Grammy for his album ‘Ultimate Adventure’ and in 2008 he reformed Return to Forever with Clarke, White and Al De Meola. Also in 2008 Chick toured internationally with John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, Christain McBride and drummers Brian Blade as well as Vinnie Colaiuta.
At sixty eight years old, Chick Corea continues going strong and exploring himself and music. While his legacy is still in the works, Chick is a master Jazz musician and piano player and his influence on this music has been great. Corea also already leaves a legacy as one of the greatest Jazz composers in history. Among his awards received include over ten Grammy awards and many more nominations, has won tons of Jazz polls from Down Beat and many others, the NEA Jazz Masters Award, Award of the Piano Festival Ruhr and many others. Get out and see Chick Corea live and soak up the wisdom and beautiful music of a true Jazz legend.
“The most important lesson I took from Miles was his certainty as an artist. He was criticized in a lot of different ways, as most artists are … when they try and do something, but he never wavered from continuing to make the kind of music that he really wanted to make. And that was very inspiring to me, … that spiritual quality of courage and forthrightness.”
“It’s very difficult for me to dislike an artist. No matter what he’s creating, the fact that he’s experiencing the joy of creation makes me feel like we’re in a brotherhood of some kind… we’re in it together.”
“Art is a subject that is inundated with opinions. In fact, that’s all it is about is opinions.” – Chick Corea
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