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Jazz fusion legend Chick Corea dead aged 79

Chick Corea
(Image credit: Michal Putland / Getty Images)

Jazz fusion keyboard player Chick Corea, who payed in Miles Davis' band in the late 60s and was one of the pioneers of jazz fusion in the 70s with Return To Forever, has died, aged 79.

According to a post on his Facebook page Corea died on February 9 of a rare form of recently discovered cancer.

"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."

Corea's career began in the 1960s, working with jazz musicians such as Stan Getz and Herbie Mann, before he joined Miles Davis in the late 60s. He appeared on such Davis albums as In A Silent Way (1969), Bitches Brew (1970), Jack Johnson and Live-Evil (both 1971).

In 1972 Corea released the album Return To Forever, which in turn became the band Return To Forever, featuring Stanley Clarke on bass, Joe Farrell on flute and saxophone, Aito Moreira on drums and Flora Purim on vocals. 1973's Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy featured Lenny White on drums and Bill Connors on guitar. Connors was replaced by Al Di Meola for 1974's Where Have I Know You Before. The perceived 'classic' line-up of the band would also release No Mystery (1975) and Romantic Warrior (1976) which went Gold but after which Corea changed line-up.

Corea was the fourth most nominated musician in Grammy Award history, being nominated 63 times and picking up 23 awards, his last being for Best Latin Jazz album for Antidote last year, and would also work with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan and more.

In 2008 he reformed the classic Return To Forever line-up for a successful world tour and he celebrated his 75th birthday in 2016 by playing with more than 20 different groups during a six-week stand at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, among them fellow fusion pioneer John McLaughlin.

Dream Theater keyboard player Jordan Rudess paid tribute to Corea on Twitter, saying: "RIP Chick Corea, legendary pianist, master of technique and composition whose melodies reached down and grabbed our collective souls. You will be missed but your legacy lives on in the countless musicians who were influenced by your magic."

Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes said: "Sad to hear we’ve lost another iconic keyboard legend - Chick Corea. Saw Return To Forever at Leeds University when I was a student early 70’s with the amazing lineup of Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and Lenny White. Absolutely mind blowing gig that was."

Jerry Ewing

Founder and Editor of Prog Magazine. Enjoys almost all progressive music in its many guises, but is especially partial to a slice of post rock.