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Chick Corea

Artist Biography by: Lee Prosser

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Thanks to the proliferation of jazz programs in high schools and Universities, the number of jazz pianists continues to grow at unprecedented rates. This growing population has a vast reservoir of musical devices from which to draw, and the ability to execute ideas with technique to spare. The one factor which seems to be much more difficult to acquire is an individual style.

It is no wonder that the world of jazz piano has produced such a strong stylist as Armando Chick Corea. Corea began on piano at the age of six and drums at eight. From 1962-6 he worked with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell and Herbie Mann. In 1967 he recorded with Stan Getz and also started leading his own groups. From 1968-70 he worked with Miles Davis, touring internationally, appearing at most major festivals, and playing on some of the trumpeter's most important and influential albums, including Fles De Kilimanjaro, In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew And Live Evil. Until he joined Davis, Corea had been known on the New York scene as a brilliant acoustic pianist notable for his composing, his familiarity with Latin idioms, and for an eclectic style compounded of his main influences: Tatum, Hancock, Tyner Monk, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans.

His 1968 trio album, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, shows his consummate ability at that time and also hints at his growing interest in the freer and more European aspects of the contemporary avant-garde. The exposure with Davis made him an international jazz star, establishing him as one of the leading performers on the electric keyboards, and the group's non-harmonic, often polytonal jazz rock music gave Corea the freedom to explore abstraction as music as he wished.

Corea led a free -jazz ensemble named Circle, but soon formed a very influential group called Return to Forever. This band's music explored Latin, jazz and rock rhythms, and Corea broke through to a large crossover audience . Return to Forever, eventually evolved into a fusion group, with guitarist Al Di Meola becoming the instrumental foil for Chick's electric keyboards. With a powerhouse rock sensibility and a jazz improvisational focus, this became Chick's most popular setting. Tapping into the synthesizer's orchestral possibilities, Chick's expanded his musical palette to include evocative textures and colors, while keeping his "chop-oriented" single -note improvisations a focal point of the group. Chick Corea has continued to lead excellent groups with talented young musicians (his new band is called Origin), as well as composing works for chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras. Corea captures elements of all his previous works: free/Avant Garde, Post-bop jazz, fusion Classical, Spanish and Contemporary Classical, revisiting his musical origins. He has also performed improvisational two -piano recitals with Frederich Gulda and Herbie Hancock. He is certainly one of the most talented musicians in American music today. And once again creating something fresh and new that transcends style.

Photo by: © Morrice Blackwell

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