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Chick Corea Forever!

Door Marc Zisman |

A huge and influential pianist, the American succumbed to cancer at the age of 79...

Like Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea hatched in Miles Davis' nest. And like them, his style was unique and innovative. The American pianist, who died on February 9, 2021, took his instrument on every possible and imaginable path of jazz. A technical virtuoso, an accomplished composer, a twirling improviser and an avid passer-by, Corea will remain one of the greatest pianists of his generation. From his debut with Miles, in an acoustic trio, in a duo with vibraphonist Gary Burton or pianist Herbie Hancock, in the electric group Return to Forever and in many other settings, the American was a forerunner in so many fields. He also leaves an impressive discography that documents his genius, his versatility and above all this unique style capable of delving into classical repertoires such as Latin music, a very rhythmic playing technique (he was awarded a first prize at the conservatory for snare drumming), in short a style that inspired numerous musicians.

Influenced as much by Bud Powell as Horace Silver, Chick Corea would perform alongside Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann and Stan Getz. In 1968, surrounded by double bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes, he wrote a masterpiece for the Blue Note label: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. In the jazz world, the piano-bass-drum trio is a kind of legend in mythology... And this one turns its aesthetics upside down in a peak of transparent virtuosity with the most unprecedented harmonic beauty. Behind his four-colour barrels, the wise and imperial Roy Haynes, then twenty years older than his fellow musicians, never pulled the cover on himself, strengthening this whirlwind of swing.

Between 1968 and 1970, Chick Corea replaced Hancock in Miles' band and was featured on several of the trumpeter's greatest albums such as Water Babies, Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson, On the Corner and several live performances. The pianist followed this up with a fairly avant-garde quartet experience with Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul, but changed direction very quickly. This was indeed a time when two options were often open to jazzmen: free or fusion jazz. Chick Corea opted for the latter by launching one of the most popular bands of the time: Return To Forever. Initially bathed in Brazilian influences (Airto and Flora Purim were on board), the band quickly drifted towards pure jazz rock with Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Bill Connors, and later Al DiMeola...

Later, Chick Corea would return to the acoustic piano and, among his many other projects, would launch two magnificent duets, one with vibraphonist Gary Burton and the other with his colleague Herbie Hancock. He would also re-form his trio with Vitous and Haynes, his partners from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.

During the 80's Corea stirred up the jazzosphere again with two new formations in the form of Yin and Yang: the Elektric Band with electric bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Frank Gambale, saxophonist Eric Marienthal and drummer Dave Weckl, and the Akoustic Band with Patitucci on double bass and Weckl on drums. What followed was a new ocean of projects in quintet, solo, and in all types of formations! He played with both old and younger musicians and crossed paths with Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney, Christian McBride, Steve Gadd, Béla Fleck, Gary Burton, John McLaughlin, Vinnie Colaiuta, Hiromi, Bill Connors, Jean-Luc Ponty, Eddie Gomez, Paul Motian, Marcus Gilmore and Tim Garland, to name a few...

Still very active in his last few years both on records and on stage, Chick Corea suddenly slipped away. And the avalanche of tributes from musicians on social networks, his contemporaries as well as his students and successors, shows the importance of his contribution to the great history of jazz.


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