Chick Corea

From Academic Kids

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Chick Corea on the cover of sheet music book Chick Corea Collection

Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea (born June 12, 1941) is an American jazz pianist/keyboardist and composer who is arguably best known for his work during the 1970s in the genre of jazz fusion, although his contributions to straight-ahead jazz have been tremendous. He participated in the birth of the electric fusion movement as a member of Miles Davis's band in the 1960s, and in the 1970s formed Return to Forever. He continued to pursue other collaborations and explore various musical styles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Among jazz pianists, Corea is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential since Bill Evans (along with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett). He is also known for promoting Scientology.

Contents

Life and career

Youth

Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. His father Armando, a jazz trumpet player who had led a Dixieland band in the Boston area in the 1930s and 1940s, introduced Chick to the piano around the age of five. Growing up surrounded by jazz music, he was influenced at an early age by bebop stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Horace Silver and Lester Young. At eight Corea also took up drums, which would later give him the ability to handle the piano as a percussion instrument.

Schooling proving to be unsuccessful, Corea mostly developed his piano skills by exploring music on his own. A notable influence was concert pianist Salvatore Sullo for whom Corea started taking lectures at age eight, who introduced him to classical music, helping spark his interest in musical composition.

Given a black tuxedo by his father, he started doing gigs when in high school. He enjoyed listening to Herb Pomeroy's band at the time, and had a trio which would play Horace Silver's music at a local jazz club. He collaborated with Portuguese bandleader and trumpet player Phil Barboza, and with conga drummer Bill Fitch who introduced him to Latin music:

I liked the "extraversion" of Latin music, especially the dance and salsa style music - bands like Tito Puente's band and Machito's band. The Cuban dance music was a great kind of antidote to some of the more serious, heady jazz that I was into. I liked the "outgoingness" and exuberance of the music. I just stayed interested in all kinds of Latin music. Then I discovered Spanish Latin music, which is flamenco.

He eventually decided to move to New York where he took up musical education for one month at Columbia University and six months at The Juilliard School (among his Juilliard teachers was Peter Schickele, who described Chick as "the most awake student [he] ever taught"). He quit after finding both disappointing, but liked the atmosphere of New York whose musical scene became the starting point for his professional career.

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Early career

Corea started his professional career in the '60s playing with trumpeter Blue Mitchell and Latin greats such as Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria. One of the earliest recordings of his playing is with Blue Mitchell's quintet on The Thing To Do. This album features his composition "Chick's Tune", a clever retooling of "You Stepped Out of a Dream" that demonstrates the angular melodies and Latin-and-swing rhythms that characterize, in part, Corea's personal style. (Incidentally, the same tune features a hellacious drum solo by a very young Al Foster.)

His first album as a leader was Tones For Joan's Bones in 1966, two years before the release of his legendary album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with Roy Haynes on drums, and Miroslav Vitous on bass.

Another early sideman appearance is with Stan Getz on 1967's Sweet Rain.

Jazz fusion

In September 1968, he joined Miles Davis's band and appeared on important albums such as Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. With this band, he experimented using electric instruments, mainly the Fender Rhodes electric piano. In concert, Davis's rhythm section of Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette played in a novel style that combined elements of free improvisation and rock music. Expressing a desire to play more freely just as Davis's music became increasingly funk-based, Holland and Corea left to form their own group.

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Posing in a stylish outfit on the cover of the Spanish-flaired 1976 album My Spanish Heart.

In the early '70s, Corea took on different projects as a bandleader. In the period 1970-71, he was active in the band Circle, an avant-jazz group featuring Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul. Dissatisfied by the abstraction of free improvisation and expressing a desire to reach out to a wider audience, Corea struck out on his own. In 1971, he founded another band, Return to Forever. On its early records, Return to Forever had a bright sound dominated by Flora Purim'svocals, the Fender Rhodes electric piano, and Joe Farrell's flute. Airto Moreira played drums. Corea's compositions for this group often had a Brazilian tinge. In 1972, Corea played many of the early Return to Forever tune in a group he put together for saxophonist Stan Getz; this group, with Stanley Clarke on bass and Tony Williams on drums, recorded the album Captain Marvel under Getz's name.

Shortly thereafter, the band moved more in the direction of rock music influenced by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Only Clarke remained from the group's first lineup; Bill Connors played electric guitar and Lenny White played drums. In 1974 Al Di Meola joined the band in 1974, replacing Connors. In this second version of Return to Forever, Corea extended the use of synthesizers, particularly the Moog and Minimoog synthesizers.

Chick's composition "Spain" first appeared on the 1972 Return to Forever album Light as a Feather. This is probably his most popular piece, and it has been recorded by a variety of artists (notably Al Jarreau). There are also a variety of subsequent recordings by Chick himself in various contexts, including an arrangement for piano and symphony orchestra that appeared in 1999. Chick usually performs "Spain" with a prelude based on Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (1940).

Later work

In the late '70s, Corea started working with vibraphonist Gary Burton, with whom he recorded several duet albums. His other bands include the Elektric Band, the Akoustic Band, and Origin.

The Akoustic Band released a self-titled album in 1989, and featured John Patitucci on bass and Dave Weckl on drums. All three members of the Akoustic Band are superlative technical musicians, and some listeners actually find the trio's immaculate sound to be too perfect, preferring Roy Haynes's rough-and-ready, reactive drumming to Weckl's clockwork precision. Nevertheless, the 1989 recording marks a turn back toward traditional jazz in Corea's career, and the bulk of his subsequent recordings have been acoustic ones.

In 1992, he started his own record label, Stretch Records.

In 2001, the Chick Corea New Trio, with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard on bass and drums respectively, released the album Past, Present & Futures. Notably, the 11-song album includes only one standard composition (Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz"). The rest of the tunes are Corea originals, and the album shows the composer and pianist in an extremely fertile phase, full of energy. This trio, Chick's third major piano trio, has a more organic sound than the Akoustic Band, but sounds more "worldy" than the classic trio with Vitous and Haynes, as both Ballard and Cohen have extensive experience with music from other cultures.

Chick also participated in a somewhat remarkable recording in 1998: Like Minds, which features Gary Burton on vibes, Pat Metheny on guitar, Dave Holland on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. The album arrived with little fanfare but brought together a rather incredible group of jazz stars at the top of their games for what is essentially the mother of all pick-up sessions.

Scientology

Corea discovered the work of author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1968, first becoming familiar with Dianetics but in the 1970s also developing an interest in his science fiction novels. Corea has mentioned Hubbard as a continual source of inspiration under the "special thanks" notes in all of his later albums. The two had personal contact; they exchanged letters until Hubbard's death in 1986, and Corea even did some work on music Hubbard had written, noting, "[Hubbard] was a great composer and keyboard player as well. He did many, many things. He was a true Renaissance Man."

Scientology became a profound influence on Corea's musical direction in the early 1970s, causing him to break up Circle and form Return to Forever. He described his change of motivation:

I no longer wanted to satisfy myself. I really want to connect with the world and make my music mean something to people. (Down Beat, October 21, 1976, p.47)
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The name "Return to Forever", used for both the band and the 1972 album, "reflected Hubbard's philosophy of the spirit".

In a 2004 interview with BET Jazz, when asked how Scientology had influenced his artistry, he replied:

To me, Scientology is the very thing that artists need, in the sense that it's not a religion that you have to change the way that you pray or think about the Creator. What's incredible about Scientology is that this is the first time there's been a real technology on human relationships. To me, that's what's missing in the world. Like most of us, I grew up in a mechanical world. And when I got into music, it was mechanical in the sense of choosing notes and chords. Missing were the humanities. What ever happened to how you really live? How you feel? How you relate to people? How you reach out and help someone? I think that's one of the most basic, natural tendencies all people have -- to help. Scientology gives you the necessary tools to be successful at helping someone.

Corea created some of his Return to Forever compositions in collaboration with Neville Potter, a friend whom he had met through Scientology. Some of the other members of Return to Forever also took Scientology courses, and the name Return to Forever itself was, in Corea's words, "definitely influenced by the Hubbard's philosophy of the spirit. [...] It sort of nailed the spiritual intent of the music, [that it should] be pure."

Not all musicians he has collaborated with have been content with his views. Reportedly, Joe Farrell once told him: "Hey, man. Don't lay that Scientology shit on me." Although Corea has stated that he requires "a certain amount of ethics" from anybody he works with, he has also expressed the belief:

The values that Scientology states are universal values. Values that any good mother or father or friend couldn't possibly disagree with. They're the values of health and improvement. It's not a belief system where you have to sign up and believe something particularly.

Many of his songs contain explicit references to Scientology and various works by Hubbard. For example, "What Games Shall We Play Today?" refers to the philosophy in Scientology that life consists of "games" in which the objective is to extract joy. His 2004 album To the Stars is a tone poem based on Hubbard's science fiction novel of the same name.

Awards

Over the years, he has been nominated for 45 Grammy Awards out of which he has won 12:

YearAwardAlbum/song
1976 Best jazz instrumental performance, group No Mystery (with Return to Forever)
1977 Best arrangement of an instrumental recording "Leprechaun's Dream", The Leprechaun
1977 Best jazz instrumental performance, group The Leprechaun
1979 Best jazz instrumental performance, group Friends
1980 Best jazz instrumental performance, group Duet (with Gary Burton)
1982 Best jazz instrumental performance, group In Concert, Zurich, Oct 28, 1979 (with Gary Burton)
1989 Best R&B instrumental performance "Light Years", GRP Super Live In Concert (with Elektric Band)
1990 Best jazz instrumental performance, group Akoustic Band (with Akoustic Band)
2000 Best instrumental solo "Rhumbata", Native Sense (with Gary Burton)
2001 Best jazz instrumental performance Like Minds (with Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland)
2002 Best instrumental arrangement "Spain for Sextet & Orchestra", Corea.Concerto
2004 Best jazz instrumental solo "Matrix"

His 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Discography

Below is a selective discography. See Chick Corea discography for a comprehensive listing.

See also

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References

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