Chick Corea, the American jazz composer and electric keyboard trailblazer whose visionary fusion work stretched the traditional boundaries of genre, has died of a rare form of cancer. He was 79.
Corea’s illness “was only discovered very recently,” read a statement posted on his Facebook page Thursday.
“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright,” read a message the 23-time Grammy award winner left prior to his February 9 passing, which his team released in the statement.
“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.”
The dynamic composer and bandleader, whose compositions-turned-jazz standards included “Spain,” “500 Miles High” and “La Fiesta,” was among a select group of talent that also featured Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, who all emerged as some of the 20th century’s most influential pianists.
Over his more than half-a-century-long career Corea established himself as a revolutionary of the 1970s jazz fusion era, experimenting with rock and electronic sounds to shake the genre into contemporary times.
“We have a mission to go out there and be an antidote to war and all of the dark side of what happens on Planet Earth,” he told the NPR program “Jazz Night in America” in 2018, explaining the role of an artist.
“We’re the ones that go in and remind people about their creativity.”
‘Joy of creating’
Born Armando Corea to a family of Italian-Americans in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, the musician was introduced to the piano at a young age by his jazz trumpeter father and took an early interest in bebop.
The pianist who also played the drums performed local gigs in high school and began musical studies at both Columbia and Juilliard before quitting to play full time.
In the early 1960s he worked with greats including Stan Getz and Herbie Mann, later replacing Hancock in Miles Davis’ band, an icon Corea influenced into his electronic period that included classics like “Bitches Brew.”