Happy Birthday Chick Corea

June 12, 1941

Jazz Middelheim

Pianist, keyboardist, composer and bandleader Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea was born on June 12, 1941 in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Originally inspired by his father Frank Corea, who led a Dixieland band and introduced his son to bebop, Chick started playing piano when he was four.

Bud Powell and Horace Silver were his early influences, followed later by Bill Evans.

After moving to New York in the early 1960s, Corea played and recorded with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo (1962-63), Blue Mitchell (1964-66), Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan.

Corea made his recording debut as a leader in 1966 with Tones For Joan’s Bones and his 1968 trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs is considered his first of many classic recordings.

A member of Miles Davis’ groups during an important transitional period (1968-70), Corea began playing electric keyboards and synthesizers, appearing on several Davis albums including In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

When he left Davis in 1970, it was to lead the avant-garde quartet Circle, a group also featuring saxophonist Anthony Braxton.

Changing directions the following year, he formed the first version of Return To Forever which was originally a Brazilian fusion band with Flora Purim, Airto, Joe Farrell and Stanley Clarke.

His greatest commercial success was the second version of Return To Forever (1973-76), a rock-oriented fusion quartet with guitarist Bill Connors (soon succeeded by Al DiMeola), electric bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White.

After RTF broke up, there was a brief third version that was a small big band, and then Corea freelanced in a large number of projects including duets with vibraphonist Gary Burton, various straight ahead combos and, starting in the mid-1980s, the Elektric Band and the Akoustic Band.

Since then, Chick Corea (whether on acoustic piano or electric keyboards), has been involved in leading many groups, often several a year, all of them stimulating and top-notch examples of creative jazz.

As he entered his late eighties, Corea showed no signs of decline, either in his technical skills, creativity or enthusiasm for new projects.

This film clip features Corea performing a set at the 1993 Jazz Middelheim Festival in Antwerp, Belgium, leading a post bop acoustic quartet that includes the late tenor-saxophonist Bob Berg.

-Scott Yanow