Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Corea, Chick (Armando Anthony)

Corea, Chick (Armando Anthony), pianist, composer, drummer, percussionist (he also plays trumpet avocationally); b. Chelsea, Mass., June 12, 1941. His father's parents were Italian immigrants, Antonio Corea (b. in 1876 or 7; a shoemaker, stitcher) and Esther (b. 1885 or 6, a homemaker). Antonio's family had come over in 1894 and Esther's in 1900. They had married in 1905 or early in 06 and were Roman Catholic.

                        Chick Corea, photo by Jos L. Knaepen

By the April 1930 census they lived in a building at 111 Williams Street in Chelsea, Mass. that had several apartments, in a neighborhood with many other immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Russia, with their thirteen children, all born in Mass.: Armando J. Corea, listed as a professional drummer, b. 1906; Anna, who worked as a stockkeeper for the shoes, born 1909; Frank, a professional trumpeter, b. in 1911;  Nicholas, b. 1913, a nailer of shoes; Rose, b. 1905, a stockkeeper; Helen, b. ca. August 1916; Orlando, b. ca. March 1917; Jennie, b. ca. Sept. 1918; Salvatore, b. 1920 or 21; Jimmy, b. a year later; Mary, b. 1923 or 4; Gloria, b. 1925 or 6; and John, b. around September of 1927. Yet a fourteenth child came later.

Chick's father to be, Armando J. Corea (b. 26 Oct 1906, Mass., d.  13 Oct 1987 in neighboring Everett), married Anna  Corea (b. 21 Apr 1909; d. 28 Aug 2000 in Los Angeles, where she had moved to be with Chick some time after her husband died). It is possible that the census taker confused Armando with Frank, or that Armando played drums at one time, because he was known primarily as a trumpeter, composer and arranger who led and wrote for an eight- to 10-piece band in the Boston area from the late 20s and 30s. He kept a scrapbook of ads, and during the Depression they were on radio.

When Chick was about four the family bought a piano for him. Armando Sr. inspired and encouraged his son at every level, from his St. Rose Drum & Bugle Corps days to his first attempts at bebop. He taught Chick the basics of the piano and music notation, and wrote out some arrangements of standard tunes for him to learn. He played Chick recordings of Parker, Gillespie, Bud Powell and the Billy Eckstine band, and took him to hear live jazz. Powell was his first jazz inspiration (when he was older he transcribed some of Powell's solos). For about six years (Corea has said this was from the ages of 11 to about 17, but he has sometimes said he was younger than that), he studied Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and other classical composers with Salvatore Sullo. By the 1950s the family lived on 149 Chestnut Street in Chelsea. He was known as Chickie to friends at Williams Junior High and Chelsea High, among them Minna Karas-Marino (now a Chelsea city employee) and his first drummer Lennie Nelson, longtime employee of the MBTA. Chick also has a younger cousin, Linda List, who now lives in Tewksbury, MA.

At a young age Chick played with his father at country clubs and private parties in Boston and Cape Cod. Chick started doing gigs on his own in high school, with a Portuguese bandleader named Phil Barboza. (Barboza was performing and recording with his "Cape Verdean" band at least through the late 80's but he passed away before 2000.) There was a conga player in the band named Bill Fitch who introduced him to Latin music through records. Around 1957-8 he formed a trio with two colleagues from the Barboza band, Tony Williams and Don Alias, who then played bass (now known as a percussionist. Powell remained a favorite, but the first pianist he transcribed and studied in depth was Horace Silver, both his piano solos and his compositions. His trio performed many of Silver's tunes. He played at Wally's Jazz Club and elsewhere. His high school yearbook listed him as "most likely to succeed" and "most musical." For his father he later wrote Armando's Rhumba and he dedicated his CD Past, Present and Futures, which also included two tunes for her, "Anna's Tango" and "Dignity," as well as "The Chelsea Shuffle" for his childhood home. In May 2001, Chelsea's Everett Avenue was renamed in his honor Chick Corea Way.

Corea graduated high school in June 1959, spent the summer with a show band in Las Vegas, and in September he moved to Manhattan and began studying liberal arts at Columbia U., but when he saw the Miles Davis quintet at Birdland with Coltrane during their engagement of September 17-October 7, 1959, his decision to be a full-time musician was confirmed. He went to see the group every night for several weeks, and soon after left Columbia. He went back to Chelsea to prepare for an audition to Juilliard  since he wanted a formal reason to be in New York. He practiced classical repertoire intenselty for perhaps eight months and he was accepted there for the fall of 1960, but again he found that formal education was not his interest, and he only stayed a few months at Juilliard. He was now settled on 71st Street in New York and saxophonist Joe Farrell helped introduce him to other musicians. He began working and recording with Mongo Santamaria (from 1962), Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Blue Mitchell, and Herbie Mann (at least March-July, 1965). He spent about two years with Stan Getz ca. 1966-68. (Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes were in the group but for the album Sweet Rain both had the flu and were replaced by Ron Carter and Grady Tate.)  In March 1968 he recorded Now He Sings Now He Sobs with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, which is considered among musicians to be one of the most brilliant trio albums ever and had wide influence--his solo on Matrix on that album was transcribed, studied, and even performed by Lee Konitz (who recorded it with his nonet) and others. He spent some time accompanying Sarah Vaughan during 1968.

When Herbie Hancock left Miles Davis's group, Chick's friend Tony Williams recommended him and he left Vaughan in San Francisco (replaced briefly by Bob James, who had already worked with Vaughan) to join Miles Davis' band (from mid-68 through the summer of 1970), playing first acoustic, then electric piano at the insistence of the leader. During his tenure he also he became more involved separately in projects utilizing free improvisation, recording in 1969 under his own name the album Is, where he also played percussion, and after Davis leading Circle (1970-71) with Dave Holland, Barry Altschul and Anthony Braxton, and also performing and recording solo in 1971. During this time, around 1970, he was introduced to Scientology by a bassist friend, Jamie Faunt, and he soon became devoted to it, remaining so to this day. He decided that he wanted his music to be more accessible, "melodic and lyrical with more traditional rhythms" and with occasional vocals, and he has concentrated since then heavily on composition.

He has created a distinct musical identity by a conscious incorporation of Latin music and of modern classical music, particularly Bartok. Stravinsky, Alban Berg, and Olivier Messaien are also favorites. He performed at the Village Vanguard in Jan. 1972 and recorded the album Return to Forever, which became the title of the band, with himself on Fender Rhodes electric piano, Farrell,  Stanley Clarke (who he met in 1971), Airto Moreira (from Davis's band) and Moreira's wife Flora Purim, in Feb. 1972. He,  Clarke, and Tony Williams  toured with Stan Getz around March through July 1972 (with Moreira added for recordings), before turning to full-time touring with Return to Forever. Also in 1972 he married singer and keyboardist Gayle Moran, a long time friend. By 1973 the band featured Clarke, Lenny White and Bill Connors, replaced by Al DiMeola in 1974. He began using a broader range of keyboards including the Moog synthesizer. Ron Moss, a trombonist who was road manager for Return To Forever in 1974, has been his manager ever since.

Corea settled in the Los Angeles area by the mid-'70s and his management company, Chick Corea Productions, operated out of North Hollywood. His then teenaged son and daughter attended the Delphian School in Sheridan, Oregon, a boarding school based on the principles of Scientology. In 1978 he recorded there solo on a unique hand built piano. Return To Forever, now with Gayle Moran on voice, had six albums reach the Billboard  pop album chart in the '70s, three in the top 40. In 1976 his album "Romantic Warrior" sold more than 500,000 copies. Musicmagic was nominated for a Grammy  in 1977.

He continued using the Return to Forever title for his bands through 1977, then delved into a diverse series of recordings--electronic ensembles, solo piano, chamber music, reunions with Vitous and Haynes (occasionally for tours and recordings since 1981), and acoustic duos with Herbie Hancock (1978, on tour and on recordings) and Gary Burton (on an occasional basis since 1972).

He wrote a regular column for Contemporary Keyboard magazine (now known simply as Keyboard) during its first years of existence beginning in 1975. Other projects were the Grammy winning Leprechaun album and tours and recordings with an all star group featuring Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard (1979-82). In June 1982 he recorded two LPs of duets with European pianists accomplished in both classical music and jazz, Friedrich Gulda and Nicolas Economou, the latter including some music of Bartok. He has also recorded Mozart's Concerto for two pianos and orchestra (with Gulda) and his own piano      concerto was written around 1983, premiered in 1986, but not recorded until 1999.

He began an association with GRP Records that was announced by the release in 1986 of a recording with his new group, the Elektric Band, and the beginning of a collaboration with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, who also recorded and performed with him as the Akoustic Band. These were his first regular working groups since the late 1970s. They stayed together for about six years.

In 1992, he and Ron Moss formed the GRP subsidiary Stretch Records; among its early releases were projects by Bob Berg, John Patitucci, Eddie Gomez, Robben Ford, and of course Corea. In 1996 Stretch came under the aegis of Concord Records.
Corea also runs the Mad Hatter studio in Los Angeles.

In August 1993 he ran in to a conflict over his belief in Scientology. The German State of Baden-Wuerttemburg provided funding for a variety of events in conjunction with the World Athletic Championships held in Stuttgart in August 1993. A promotions agency staging the events contacted Corea about performing at the Baden-Wuerttemburg Club, a
state-owned facility. Early in the negotiations, the state became aware of Corea's promotional efforts on behalf of the Scientology organization. At this point, due to their caution toward cult groups since the Nazis, the state decided not to continue negotiations. Corea alleged religious discrimination, and a rumor spread that he was banned from playing in Germany, but in fact the decision applied only to this particular state-sponsored event.

In 1995 he began performing with Bobby McFerrin and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, performing and then recording two Mozart concertos (improvising the cadenzas). They later did a similar program with the New York Philharmonic. Corea toured in 1996 with his Time Warp quartet, then toured and recorded with Joshua Redman, Roy Haynes and others to celebrate the legacy of Bud Powell. Also in 1996, he relocated to Clearwater, Florida, where he and Moran had often visited for Scientology retreats. They live there during about three months of the year when he is not touring internationally.

He received an honorary doctorate from Berklee in 1997.

His group Origin was founded in 1997 and the released set, A Week at the Blue Note was only the second gig it ever did. He studied martial arts with Portland Oregon native Fred King some years ago and performed "Sifu" for him with Origin in 1998. Since 2001 he has toured in a trio with bassist Avishai Cohen and the drummer Jeff Ballard, both from Origin. The trio appeared at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest 2003, which honored Corea that year as its featured artist. The Elektric Band reunited for a recording in late 2003 and a tour on the CD's release in 2004. He has also considered a duo project with Egyptian percussionist (and fellow Scientologist) Hossam Ramzy.

Corea is also a drummer and percussionist; he recorded as a drummer on Wayne Shorter's record "Super Nova" and the re-release of Corea's album Three Quartets has a previously unreleased track of him drumming with Mike Brecker on "Confirmation." He plays percussion on "Is" and has a marimba at home.

He has said that his "desert island" music would include, at least, all the Miles Davis/Gil Evans recordings, all the recordings of Monk, Powell, and Coltrane, Bartok's String Quartets recorded by the Vegh Quartet, and Scarlatti's keyboard music (sheet music).

Corea's work has been remarkable varied, encompassing fusion, Latin and mainstream traditions, as well as crossover projects in other styles. His recent recordings include collaborations with younger artists (Béla Fleck, Hiromi) and all-star projects that look back to the jazz-rock fusion era. These latter efforts include a much heralded 2008 reunion tour with the band Return to Forever, and a recording and tour with John McLaughlin as part of the Five Peace Band.

2008    The Five Peace Band (with John McLaughlin)
2008    The New Crystal Silence (with Gary Burton)
2007    The Enchantment (with Béla Fleck)
2007    Super Trio
2006    The Ultimate Adventure
2005    Rhumba Flamenco
2003    To the Stars
2001    Rendezvous in New York
2001    Past, Present and Futures
2000    Solo Piano - Originals
2000    Solo Piano - Standards
1999    Origin - Change         
1999    Corea Concerto
1998    Like Minds (w. Gary Burton, Pat Metheny
1998    A Week at the Blue Note
1997-8Origin ( live at the Blue Note; does not duplicate the "Week" set; extra track on Japanese issue)
1996    Forever & Beyond (includes one CD of previously unissued items including his recording at age 9)
1996    Mozart Sessions (w. Bobby Mcferrin)
1996    Live From Elario's
1996    Live From The Blue Note Tokyo
1996    Live From The Country Club
1996    From Nothing
1996    Remembering Bud Powell
1997    Native Sense - The New Duets(With Gary Burton)
1995    Time Warp
1994    Expressions
1993    Expressions
1993    Paint The World
1992    Play (With Bobby Mcferrin)
1991    Beneath The Mask
1990    Inside Out
1989    Akoustic Band
1988    Eye of the Beholder
1987    Light Years
1986    Elektric Band
1985    Sea Journey
1984    Voyage
1984    Trio Music: Live in Europe
1984    Septet
1983    Children's Songs
1982    Griffith Park Collection (all star band with J. Henderson, F. Hubbard)
1982    Echoes Of An Era (J. Henderson,  F. Hubbard)
1982    Echoes Of An Era 2  (J. Henderson, F. Hubbard)
1982    Touchstone
1982    Meeting
1982    Lyric Suite for Sextet
1982    Chick and Lionel
1981    Trio Music
1981    Three Quartets
1980    An Evening With
1979    In Concert Zurich
1979    Duet
1978    Tap Step
1978    Secret Agent                  
1978    R.T.F. Live                  
1978    Mad Hatter                  
1978    Homecoming: Corea and Hancock 
1978    Friends                   
1978    Evening with Herbie Hancock  
1978    Duet                          
1978    Delphi I,II.III: Solo Piano Improvisations);
1977    Return to Forever Live        
1977    Music Magic                  
1976    Romantic Warrior            
1976    Passengers                   
1976    My Spanish Heart            
1975    Leprechaun                    
1975    Dreams So Real               
1972    S. Getz: Captain Marvel               
1974    Where Have I Known You Before 
1974    Round Trip                    
1974    Live in N.Y. (1974)   
1973    Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy    
1972    Return to Forever             
1972    Light As a Feather         
1972    With Gary Burton: Crystal Silence             
1971    Piano Improvisations, Vol. 1, 2  
1971    Circle/Paris-Concert         
1971    A.R.C.                       
1970    Song of Singing               
1970    Circulus                      
1970    Circling In                   
1969    Sundance                      
1969    Is                          
1968    Now He Sings, Now He Sobs     
1967    Various Artists: Jazz for a Sunday Afternoon   
1967    P. LaRoca: Bliss!                        
1966    Tones for Joan's Bones      
Chick Corea: Electric Workshop; Inside Out; Akoustic Band; The Woodstock Jazz Festival (1981) 

Television broadcasts:
Numerous TV appearances, for ex.:
Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest 2003
May 25, 2001 concert with the Boston Pops, PBS-TV.
Excerpts from 60 hours at the Blute Note, December 2001 (satellite TV)

Radio broadcasts:
Numerous radio appearances, for ex.:
Origin, broadcast on Jazzset/NPR, Mt. Hood festival, Oregon, 1998.

Alain Gerber: C'est ca qu'est Chick, in: Jazz Magazine, #171 (1969)
Larry Kart: The Chick Corea File, in: Down Beat, 36/7 (3.Apr.1969)
Leonard Feather: Blindfold test. Chick Corea, in: Down Beat, 37/23 (26.Nov.1970)
Gudrun Endress: Circle, in: Jazz Podium, 20/2 (Feb.1971)
Valerie Wilmer: Chick Corea and his Scientology, in: Melody Maker, 27.Feb.1971
Chick Corea: The Function of an Artist, in: Down Beat, 38/18 (28.Oct.1971)
Chick Corea: The Function of an Artist, part 2, in: Down Beat, 40/9 (10.May 1973)
Dan Haerle: Music Workshop. Chick Corea's "Matrix" Solo (transcription) in: Down Beat, 39/1 (20.Jan.1972)
Chick Corea: "Spain" (transcription), in: Down Beat, 40/17 (25.Oct.1973)
Steve Lake: Corea's Religious Fervor (at London's Rainbow Theatre), in: Melody Maker, 18.May 1974
Franssois Postif. Chick Corea, in Jazz Hot, 306 (Jun.1974)
Gudrun Endress: Gluck des Augenblicks - Forever, in: Jazz Podium, 23/6 (Jun.1974)
Leonard Feather: Blindfold Test. Chick Corea, in: Down Beat, 41/17 (24.Oct.1974)
Jurg Solothurnmann: Chick Corea - Feel the Joy of Life, in: Jazz Forum, #34 (1975)
Chick Corea: Regular column in Contemporary Keyboard, among them: The Electric/Acoustic Controversy (Sep/Oct.1975); Groups (Jan/Feb.1976); The Myth of Improvisation  (Apr.1976); The Pianist's Duties, Part I (Feb.1977)
Tom Darter: Chick Corea. Multi-Keyboard Giant, in: Contemporary Keyboard, 1/1 (Sep/Oct 1975)
Chuck Berg: Professor C.C. and His Amazing Perpetual Communications Company, in: Down Beat, 43/6 (25.Mar.1976)
Lee Underwood: Chick Corea. Soldering the Elements, Determining the Future, in: Down Beat, 43/17 (21.Oct.1976)
Chick Corea: Chick Corea, Volume Two, New York 1978 [sheet music]
L. Underwood: Armando in Wonderland, in: Down Beat, 45/5 (9.Mar.1978)
Lee Jeske: Chick Corea, in: Down Beat, 48/6 (Jun.1981)
Bunny Brunel: Chick a 40 ans, in: Jazz Hot, # 386/7 (Jul/Aug.1981)
Len Lyons: The Great Jazz Pianists Speaking of Their Lives and Music, (1983 [book; interview tape exists])
Howard Mandel: Chick Corea. Elektric Again, in: Down Beat, 53/1 (Jan.1986)
David Wild: Pro Session. Chick Corea's Solo on Little Rootie Tootie - A Piano Transcription, in: Down Beat, 53/1 (Jan.1986); part 2 in Down Beat, 53/2 (Feb.1986)
Josef Woodard: Piano Dreams Come True, in: Down Beat, 55/9 (Sep.1988)
Patrick Cole: Elektric Band. An Alignment of Positive Charges, in: Jazziz, 7/5 (Aug/Sep.1990)
Don Heckman: Chick Corea & The Akoustic Band, in: Jazz Times, 21/1 (Feb.1991)
Fred Bouchard: Chick Corea. Akoustic Again, in: Down Beat, 58/2 (Feb.1991)
Rick Mattingly: A Different View. Chick Corea, in: Modern Drummer, 15/3 (Mar.1991)
William Stephenson: Play (An Improvisation in Five Acts), in: Jazziz, 9/2 (Mar/Apr.1992)
Wolf Kampmann: Chick Corea. The Electric Man, in: Jazzthetik, 6/7-8 (Jul/Aug.1992)
NN: Why They Pulled the Plug on Chick Corea in Stuttgart, in: Jazz Times, 23/7 (Sep.1993)
Dave Helland: German State Bars Corea - "Who Will Be Next?", in: Down Beat, 60/10 (Oct.1993)
Mike Hennessey / Ron Moss: Arguing the point / Corea Responds (letter), in: Jazz Times, 23/9 (Nov.1993)
Henrik Friis: 33 minuter med Chick Corea, in: Jazz Special, #16 (Jun/Jul.1994)
Ed Enright: Riffs. U.N. Condemns Discrimination Against Corea, in: Down Beat, 62/5 (May 1995)
R. Dante Sawyer: Prelude. The United Nations Human Rights Commission condemned Germany..., in: Jazziz, 12/5 (May 1995)
Chris Rubin: Blindfold Test. Chick Corea, in: Down Beat, 62/12 (Dec.1995)
Daniel Duke: The Piano Improvisations of Chick Corea. An Analytical Study, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge 1996 [dissertation]
Frits Lagerwerff: De wereld volgens Chick Corea, in: Jazz Nu, 18/207 (Jul/Aug.1996)
Chris Collins: Chick Corea. Communicating Change, in: Jazz Educators Journal, 29/3 (Nov.1996)
Josef Woodard: Chick Corea. The Next Chapter, in: Jazz Times, 27/2 (Mar.1997)
Alain Le Roux: Chick Corea, in: Le Jazz (Internet Magazine, now defunct), #5 (Dec.1997)
Ted Rosenthal: Freedom and Taste, in: Piano & Keyboard, #190 (Jan/Feb.1998)
Philip Booth: Sketching a Perfect Circle. The arc of Chick Corea's career is as it always has been - directed to the point of creation, in Jazziz, 15/12 (Dec.1998)
Bill King: New Beginnings. An Interview with Chick Corea, in: The Jazz Report, 12/2 (Winter 1999)
Gudrun Endress: Chick Corea, in Jazz Podium, 48/10 (Oct.1999)
Bill Milkowski: Before & After. Piano Tune-ing with Chick Corea, in: Jazz Times, 30/1 (Feb.2000)
Aaron Cohen: Bound By the Road, in: Down Beat, 67/4 (Apr.2000)
Chick Corea: The Insider. The World's Foremost Authority on Art, in: Down Beat, 67/12 (Dec.2000)
Stuart Nicholson: Three's Company. Chick Corea returns to familiar territory with his new trio project, in: Jazzwise Magazine, #42 (May 2001)
Stuart Nicholson:Meet Me in New York, in: Jazzwise, #63 (Apr.2003)
Bill Milkowski: Acouchick, in: Jazz Times, 33/4 (May 2003)
JazzIRC webchats October 12, 1995; April 1, 1997
Online chats 3/30/97 and 1995 w. McFerrin (jazzcentral.com,,now defunct)
Corea, Chick. Music Poetry: Thoughts on Music and Art. (1980; available at chickcorea.com)
Corea, Chick. A Work In Progress...On Being a Musician  (book, available at chickcorea.com)

Sheet music books:
Chick Corea: Chick Corea. 1976
Corea, Chick. Beneath the Mask, Eds. Peter Sprague, Chick Corea. 1992
Chick Corea Classics, transcribed by Bill Dobbins. (with cassette or  CD). 1988
Chick Corea Collection. 1994. [55 songs, arr. by Corea for keyboard]
Corea, Elektric Band. [ensemble and solos transcribed]
Corea, Eye Of The Beholder. 1989.
Inside Out. 1991.
The Jazz Solos of Chick Corea, trans. Peter Sprague. 1992. [26 transcribed solos]
Light Years: Artist Transcriptions. 1989
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. 1988. [piano melody and solo transcriptions]
Paint the World. 1995.  
Piano Improvisations, vol. 1, trans. by Bill Dobbins. 1990.


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