Jazz-fusion pioneer Chick Corea has died at age 79.
The keyboardist and bandleader — best known for his work as a solo artist and with Return to Forever, and for accompanying Miles Davis — died on Tuesday after battling “a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently,” according to his official Facebook.
That statement reads in part: “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.'” The note concludes by noting that Corea’s family will “appreciate their privacy during this difficult time of loss.”
Corea was born June 12, 1941, in Chelsea, Mass., and began playing music as a child. After finding his niche as a pianist, he landed work in the early ’60s by playing with jazz musicians like Stan Getz and Herbie Mann. In 1966, he recorded his debut LP, Tones for Joan’s Bones, which came out two years later on Atlantic Records. A breakthrough arrived later that decade, joining Davis’ band on electric piano for a series of hallmark jazz-fusion albums — including 1969’s In a Silent Way, 1970’s Bitches Brew and 1971’s Live-Evil — that combined jazz with rock, funk and other styles.
After his stint with Davis, Corea formed his own iconic fusion group, Return to Forever, who recorded a total of eight LPs during their prime ’70s run — from 1972’s Return to Forever (technically credited to Corea alone) through 1978’s Live. The band did reunite multiple times, resulting in a pair of later live records: 2009’s Return to Forever – Returns and 2012’s The Mothership Returns.
He displayed a wide musical range throughout that pivotal decade, pushing jazz forward by expanding into numerous genres. “In the ’70s I was inspired by the music of Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. I also admire the band Yes,” he told Capital Bop in 2012. “But I listen to all kinds of music and still do. I love to hear what musicians do when they combine influences and inspirations from around the world.”
Corea remained one of fusion’s most prolific artists throughout his long career, recording dozens of albums as a solo artist, collaborator and band member. His most recent project was the 2020 live solo LP Plays.