Chick Corea – in concert – Royal Festival Hall, London – March 8, 1993 – BBC Radio 3 –
The sad and incalculable passings continue this year – Chick Corea who was one of the most influential pianists of the Jazz idiom (whose influence spread across several genres), passed away earlier this week, just four months shy of his 80th birthday, after a fight with Cancer.
Considered a musicians musician, whose style and artistry made him a household name even to those who had only a vague interest in Jazz – who has left such a profound imprint on Piano music and its interpretation; on that will be felt, appreciated and emulated for generations to come that his passing has left truly a vast emptiness and almost impossible shoes to fill.
Armando Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to parents Anna (née Zaccone) and Armando J. Corea. He was of southern Italian descent, his father having been born to an immigrant from Albi comune, in the Province of Catanzaro in the Calabria region. His father, a jazz trumpeter who led a Dixieland band in Boston in the 1930s and 1940s, introduced him to the piano at the age of four. Surrounded by jazz, he was influenced at an early age by bebop and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, and Lester Young. When he was eight, he took up drums, which would influence his use of the piano as a percussion instrument.
Corea began his professional career in the early 1960s with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz. He recorded his debut album, Tones for Joan’s Bones, in 1966 (released in 1968). Two years later he released a trio album, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with Roy Haynes and Miroslav Vitous.
In live performance he frequently processed the output of his electric piano with a device called a ring modulator. Using this style, he appeared on multiple Miles Davis albums, including Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West, and Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East. His live performances with the Davis band continued into 1970, with the final touring band he was part of consisting of saxophonist Steve Grossman, electric organist Keith Jarrett, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Airto Moreira, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and, of course, Davis on trumpet.
Holland and Corea departed the Davis band at the same time to form their own free jazz group, Circle, also featuring multi-reed player Anthony Braxton and drummer Barry Altschul. This band was active from 1970 to 1971, and recorded on Blue Note and ECM. Aside from exploring an atonal style, Corea sometimes reached into the body of the piano and plucked the strings. In 1971, Corea decided to work in a solo context, recording the sessions that became Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 and Piano Improvisations Vol. 2 for ECM in April of that year.
With a career that spanned some 81 studio albums, 17 live albums and 8 compilations, Chick Corea has made an indelible impression on the musical landscape.
That we have so much to listen to, study and be inspired by insures that his influence will be felt for decades to come.
And for that we’re grateful – but for the moment there is the loss and that will be around for a long time.
For a reminder and a remembrance, here is a solo concert performed in 1993 at The Royal Festival Hall and broadcast by BBC Radio 3.