Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. composer and pianist Chick Corea

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. composer and pianist Chick Corea
Photo: Timothy Norris (Getty Images)

Chick Corea has died. A 23-time Grammy winner, Corea’s music helped shape the sound of jazz piano from the 1960s onward, both with his work with Miles Davis—including on the endlessly influential Bitches Brew—and in a series of solo and duet projects that spanned the entirety of his 60-year career. Per Rolling Stone, Corea died on Tuesday from a rare form of cancer. He was 79.

Born in Massachusetts, and swiftly inducted into the world of jazz by his Dixieland trumpeter father, Corea slipped into the world of music early and often. He spent the 1960s touring and playing with a wide variety of notables of the day, releasing two albums—Tones For Joan’s Bones and Now He Sings, Now He Sobs—before moving into Davis’ orbit, stepping in as his band’s pianist after the departure of Herbie Hancock. (Years later, the two would team up for a concert series where they frequently traded off on each other’s signature songs.) Although he would eventually break away to form his own groups (first Circle, and then later Return To Forever, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, and more), Corea’s work appeared on more than a dozen Davis albums recorded during the era, as he helped the influential bandleader chart the course between traditional jazz and the rising influences of pop and rock.

Insanely prolific—he’s credited with 81 studio albums, even before taking compilation and live albums into account—Corea’s career drifted across a wide variety of styles and partners as it spanned the decades. Fusion, rock, classical jazz, pop, prog rock, and more all received his attention over the years, as his list of collaborators grew to include Gary Barton, Béla Fleck, Bobby McFerrin, Hiromi Uehara, and many more. (One of his favorite styles of album involved finding a new duet partner to explore their shared musical interests with.) His projects showcased his numerous passions—including, somewhat infamously, lending his talents to 1982's Space Jazz, composed by L. Ron Hubbard, of whom Corea was a devoted follower—even as his own more classical compositions, like “Spain” and “500 Miles High” have been elevated to the status of common jazz standards.

Corea continued playing and composing right up until the end of his life; his final album, Plays, was released in September of last year.