WORLD LOSES JAZZ EXPLORER.
Chic Corea dies.
by Norman Warwick
A post from Brian Zimmerman, LEFT, in Jazziz informed me and the rest of the world that Chick Corea, the pianist and composer who has been a leader in almost every modern jazz genre, died on February 9th from a rare form of cancer. He was 79.
My colleagues Steve Bewick, presenter of Hot Biscuits weekly jazz programme on FC Radio, and our writing associate Gary Heywood-Everett will be far more aware than I of Corea’s impact on jazz, but the word found by Mr. Zimmerman (and surely anyone with that surname should be able to find precisely the right word) is ´immeasurable.´ Zimmerman traces Corea´s sidetracks & detours from his pioneering work in jazz fusion to his later forays into world music and flamenco, He was an artist who, says the reporter, ´greatly expanded the borders of jazz, and who opened its doors to influences from around the globe.´
It would have been on Corea´s trips across the musical borders that I became aware of his music, and I am certainly aware these days of his influence on Flamenco music in Spain and over here on the Canary Islands.
Born Armando Anthony Corea in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1941, Chic began studying music at age 4 and landed his first professional gig with singer Cab Calloway in the early 1960s. Not yet being as familiar with the history of jazz as I hope to become I am astonished that there could ever be any Venn Diagram in which the names Corea and Calloway could sit alongside each other in even the shortest piece of time on any chronological scale.
Mr. Zimmerman reports that the pianist undertook important side-man apprenticeships with trumpeter Blue Mitchell and flutist Herbie Mann. Saxophonist Stan Getz followed, and in 1966 Corea recorded his debut album as a leader.
Tones for Joan’s Bones was that album and within a few years he had achieved critical and popular acclaim for the release of his 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, which was an early showcase for the folk-like compositions and probing improvisations that would become his trademark. His 1972 album Crystal Silencewith vibraphonist Gary Burton was an indicator of his movement toward fusing musical genres, and would ultimately become accepted as a seminal recording.
After working with his idol, Miles Davis, through the early seventies, most notably on the albums Filles de Kilimanjaro, Bitches Brewand In a Silent Way, that Corea went on to form his own fusion band, Return To Forever, with Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Joe Farrell on soprano sax and flute, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion and Moreira’s wife Flora Purim on vocals. While the ensemble was often heralded as one of the most influential fusion ensembles of the 20th century, several of Corea’s recordings with that them, such as Light as a Featherand Romantic Warrior, are praised for their seamless melding of avant-garde, bossa nova, traditional jazz and pop. Corea continued to develop, with his Elektrik and Acoustic bands, music which similarly defied genre and charted a clearer path forward for jazz fusion.
The latter half of Corea’s career would find the pianist collaborating with fellow ground-breakers like vocalist Bobby McFerrin and banjoist Béla Fleck, whose style my son seeks to emulate on banjo but who I know better as a musician on somne of the very best Americana recordings over the past fifty years.
Corea notched many of his 23 GRAMMY Awards during this period, and in 1999, Now He Sings, Now He Sobswas inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2006.
In 2011, in celebration of his 70th birthday, Corea held a four-week engagement at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. During the course of that residency he featured more than ten groups and thirty band-mates from across his prolific career, reuniting Corea with friends and colleagues such as John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. The concert was documented in the multi-disc 2017 album The Musician.
Corea’s final recording, Plays, was released last year. The album collects solo recordings from concerts in the United States and Europe, and features the pianist interpreting songs by a wide range of composers, from Mozart to Monk to Stevie Wonder (LEFT) . That recording perfectly documents what Corea did best: eroding divisions between classical music, pop standard and dazzling jazz improvisation and providing a blueprint for the shape of jazz to come.
A statement from the official Chick Corea Facebook page reads as follows:
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 honour 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.
Coming soon in March 2021 a World premier of Joined Up Jazz. A festival to celebrate jazz music and its musicians in joined up words and notes. Sidetracks & Detours blog editor, Norman Warwick, in association with Hot Biscuits jazz broadcasters Gary Heywood Everett and Steve Bewick and What´s On Lanzarote journalist Susana Forden will be presenting a two week festival of writing on jazz. A fresh posting will take place each day of the festival.
Starting Monday 1st – 12th March 2021 we shall be posting to the blog at https://aata.dev articles on the jazz and blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald, modern jazz men John Coltrane and the post-modernist Gill Evans. Features will also include a personal take on the Israeli jazz scene, the rise and influence of swing jazz across Europe and an eclectic journey down the side tracks and detours of jazz. Many of these pieces will carry links to music to inform, amuse and to bop to. All you have to do is journey on down to our festival site at https.//aata.dev
No tickets required. This is a free festival to brighten up these Covid times. You can also tune in to hear Hot Biscuits on fc-radio-co.uk