Chick Corea, Jazz Fusion Figurehead, Dead at 79

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The prolific composer and keyboardist died from a rare form of cancer

Chick Corea
Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea, March 2013 (Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Images)

Jazz composer and keyboardist Chick Corea has died, according to a statement shared on his social media platforms. The prolific artist died from a “rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently,” according to the statement. He was 79 years old.

Born Armando Anthony Corea in Massachusetts in 1941, Corea was raised in a musical household; his father was a professional trumpeter player, and he learned piano from an early age. Corea attended Columbia University in the late 1950s for a brief period before transferring to Juilliard. In the ’60s, he recorded and performed with figures like Mongo Santamaria, Stan Getz, and Dizzy Gillespie, with his own debut album Tones for Joan’s Boans issued in 1968.

That same year, Corea replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band in something like a reversal of fate: Hancock previously replaced Corea in Mongo Santamaria’s band in 1962. During his time in Davis’ band, Corea played on groundbreaking albums including In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live at the Fillmore East, and Live-Evil, setting the stage for jazz fusion to flourish in the ’70s.

Corea left Davis and his group in 1970 to pursue further his jazz fusion vision, first with the short-lived quartet Circle and then with Return to Forever, a jazz-rock group with bassist Stanley Clarke that featured a rotating cast of players throughout the decade. He won his first Grammy—Best Jazz Instrumental Performance—for the title track to Return to Forever’s 1975 album No Mystery.

Corea went on to win a total of 23 Grammys over the course of his decades-long career, making him the winningest jazz artist of all time. His most recent victory was for Best Latin Jazz Album last year, for Antidote, an album with the Spanish Heart Band.


 

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