Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


COREA, Chick

(b Armando Anthony Corea, 12 June 1941, Chelsea MA; d 9 February 2021 of cancer) Jazz/rock/fusion keyboards, composer. He put tension into Romanticism, often attaining beauty; later he probably allowed electronic keyboards to complicate his act too much, and returned to acoustic playing. He worked and recorded as a sideman in the 1960s with Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws on Atlantic, Blue Mitchell on Blue Note, Mongo Santamaria on Riverside and others; led his own groups, made albums Tones For Joan's Bones '66 on Vortex, a quartet with Joe Farrell (two-disc Inner Space later compiled on Atlantic by Michael Cuscuna contains music from this period). Trio albums Now He Sings, Now He Sobs on Solid State and Circling In on Blue Note '68 featured Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vitous; Is '69 (on both Solid State and Blue Note) and Sun Dance on Groove Merchant were by a septet with Laws, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette.

He joined Miles Davis 1967-72, playing electric and acoustic piano on six Davis albums. He formed Circle with Holland and Barry Altschul for The Song of Singing, adding Anthony Braxton on Circling In and Circulus, all '70 on Blue Note, plus Live In German Concert on CBS/Sony. A trio A.R.C. was on ECM, adding Braxton for Paris Concert on that label and Gathering on CBS/Sony; there were two volumes of solo Piano Improvisations on ECM and a different Chick Corea Quartet on America, all '71. Light As A Feather on Polydor had Farrell, Stanley Clarke and Airto, vocals by Flora Purim; Return To Forever was on ECM as was Crystal Silence, a duo with Gary Burton, all '72.

Some of these albums had a Latin jazz flavor, but the direction gradually turned electronic. With varying personnel usually including Lenny White on drums, Farrell, Clarke and Al Di Meola, the fusion band Return to Forever was one of those inspired by Davis's electronic records on Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery (won a Grammy), The Leprechaun, My Spanish Heart, The Mad Hatter and Secret Agent '73-8, all on Polydor; Romantic Warrior on CBS; Return To Forever: Live and Musicmagic were CBS compilations of an NYC concert '77. Six of these made the US pop album chart, three in the top 40, making the group among the most successful of such bands. There was a brief reunion in 1983; then Return To Forever: The Anthology in 2008 was a two-CD compilation of tracks from the first four albums, and Corea, Clarke, Di Meola and White reunited for a tour of 50 cities. The new compilation was mostly remixed by Clarke, who said that the first album had been poorly recorded 'because we didn't know much about anything with those electronic instruments ... We just turned up and went at them like wld animals. As the records progressed, our instruments got better.' 

Meanwhile, Friends was a Corea quartet with Farrell, Eddie Gomez, and Steve Gadd on drums, C&H Homecoming piano duos with Herbie Hancock and Delphi 1 solo piano, all on Polydor '78. In Concert, Zürich '79 was a duet with Burton on ECM. Tap Step '77-80 and Touchstone '82 were collections with various personnel, and Three Quartets '81 with Michael Brecker, Gomez and Gadd, all on WB. Trio Music '81 was on ECM with Haynes and Vitous. Corea made 'Time Remembered' for two-disc A Tribute To Bill Evans on Palo Alto '82 with tracks by 14 others. Duo On Two Pianos with Nicolas Economou included pieces from Bartók's Mikrokosmos on DGG and The Meeting with classical/jazz pianist Friedrich Gulda on Philips were both '82. Lyric Suite With Sextet '82 with Burton and four strings including Fred Sherry on cello, solo Children's Songs '83 and Septet '85 (six strings including Sherry) were all on ECM. Bliss on Muse made '70s with John Gilmore and Pete La Roca was originally Turkish Women At The Bath in La Roca's name on Douglas (drummer La Roca had meanwhile become an attorney and successfully sued to get his album back). Live At Midem '78 was made in Paris and Cannes with Lionel Hampton has been on several labels.

Corea recorded Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra '84; his own piano concerto premièred '86; he formed trio Elektric Band with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl, using assorted Yamaha and Synclavier electronics: Elektric Band '86 on GRP also had guitarist Carlos Rios on some tracks, followed by Light Years '87 and Eye Of The Beholder '88, Inside Out '90 and Paint The World '93 on GRP: of Inside Out Clive Davis in The Times (UK) wrote about 'Vacuous gee-whizzery ... Corea's undisputed keyboard skills are spread dreadfully thin here.' There were photos of him on stage with all the keyboards hanging around his neck; then Time Warp '95 on Stretch was an acoustic quartet with Bob Berg, Patitucci and Gary Novak, described as a delicious jazz nocturne by a critic who warned the curious not to be put off by the 'sci-fi nonsense' on the cover. 'The Akoustic Band' also recorded for GRP. Remembering Bud Powell on Stretch (superb lineups 'and Friends' on various tracks) saw his facility under control; At Montreux '81 on Stretch finally issued '97 had him showing off his brains and technique but with solid support from Haynes, Joe Henderson and Gary Peacock. Corea has also accompanied his wife, vocalist Gayle Moran. Music Forever And Beyond '96 on GRP was a five-CD retrospective, from the years as a sideman with Stan Getz through the fusion and the ear-candy Elektric Band to the return to acoustic playing. Corea also recorded with Bobby McFerrin on his jazz/classical crossovers mid-'90s to the delight of at least one classical critic; see McFerrin's entry. Native Sense (Stretch '97) was a return to his duetting with Gary Burton.