Chick Corea Dead At 79

Gari Garaialde/Redferns

Chick Corea Dead At 79

Gari Garaialde/Redferns

Legendary jazz keyboardist and composer Chick Corea has died. A message on Corea’s website and social media accounts confirms the musician, known for his work with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Return To Forever among many others, passed away Tuesday from a rare form of cancer. “Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do,” the statement reads. “He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.” He was 79.

Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachussetts in 1941. His father, an Italian immigrant, was a trumpeter in a Dixieland jazz band. As a result, he was surrounded by jazz from a young age. He began playing piano at age four and drums at age eight. By high school he was playing gigs. He moved to New York City to study at Columbia and Julliard but soon was pursuing a music career outside of academia. After years of playing in various bands around NYC, including as a sideman for Stan Getz, he released his debut album Tones For Joan’s Bones in 1968. Recorded two years prior, the set showcased a percussive hard bop style sometimes compared to McCoy Tyner.

Corea continued releasing his own albums while also helping to pioneer the jazz fusion and free jazz styles as a member of Miles Davis’ band, playing his electric piano through a ring modulator and appearing on albums including Bitches Brew. By the early ’70s, he formed the free jazz combo Circle with his fellow Davis bandmate Dave Holland. By 1972 he had formed the jazz fusion band Return To Forever, which incorporated a deeper Latin music influence and sometimes collided the genre with prog rock in a manner similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra. Flamenco came to bear on his 1976 album My Spanish Heart, while later on in his career he explored the contemporary classical realm. He maintained creative partnerships with many of his fellow music legends over the years, from Herbie Hancock to Béla Fleck to Jean-Luc Ponty. The man’s curiosity, enthusiasm, and talent seemed to know no bounds.

Here’s the full statement from Corea’s family:

It is with great sadness we announce that on February 9th, Chick Corea passed away at the age of 79, from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.

Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do.

He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.

Though he would be the first to say that his music said more than words ever could, he nevertheless had this message for all those he knew and loved, and for all those who loved him:

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.

“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”

Chick’s family will of course appreciate their privacy during this difficult time of loss.

A small sampling of Corea’s work:

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