Chick Corea - Biography

Chick Corea Biography

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 to arrive after the emergence of Bill Evans (along with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett). He is also known for promoting Scientology.


Life and career


Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Supervised by his father Armando, a jazz trumpet player who had led a Dixieland band in the Boston area in the 1930s and 1940s, Chick began playing the piano at the age of four and drums at eight. He became influenced at an early age by the works of bebop stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Horace Silver and Lester Young, as well as classical music of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and mozart and others. The latter would help spark his interest in musical composition. After several years, he started taking lessons for concert pianist Salvatore Sulo, and moved to New York where after brief visits to Columbia University and The Juilliard School he started his professional career. (Among his Juilliard teachers was Peter Schickele, who described Chick as 'the most awake student he ever taught.')

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. 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.

Jazz fusion

In the late '60s, he joined Miles Davis's band and appeared on important albums such as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. With this band, he experimented using electric instruments, mainly the Fender Rhodes.

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. In 1971, he founded another band, Return to Forever. On its early records, Return to Forever has a bright sound dominated by vocals, Fender Rhodes and flute. Through the '70s, the band moved more in the direction of rock music. Al Di Meola joined the band in 1974, and Corea extended the use of synthesizers, particularly the Moog and Minimoog synthesizers.

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.

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

One of his most famous compositions is 'Spain'.


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 'He 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)

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.


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

Year Award Album/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.


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

See also

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