Born Anthony Armando Corea, June 12, 1941, in Chelsea, MA; son of Armando John (trumpet and bass player, leader of regional Dixieland and society bands) and Anna (maiden name, Zaccone) Corea; married second wife, Gayle Moran (vocalist and composer); children: (first marriage) Thaddeus and Liana. Education: Attended Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music. Keyboardist and composer. As an adolescent, played local events around Boston; member of Mongo Santamaria band, Willie Bobo combo, and Stan Getz quartet; accompanist to Sarah Vaughan; first recordings as a bandleader, 1966; keyboardist with Miles Davis, 1969; formed quartet Circle, 1970; rejoined Stan Getz Quartet; formed band Return to Forever, 1972, and Elektric Band, 1985; soloist and collaborator with other artists, including Gayle Moran, Herbie Hancock, and Gary Burton. Addresses: Home-- 2635 Griffith Park Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. Office-- c/o GRP Records, 555 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
"At the very least, music is a soothing thing ... but, at best, it can be an expanding thing," Chick Corea, jazz and crossover keyboardist extraordinaire, disclosed to Josef Woodard in Down Beat. Corea's mix of Mozart with Moog synthesizers spans a wide musical range which coincides with his personal philosophy. The many-time Grammy Award-winning composer and arranger helped pioneer jazz away from the domains of small, intimate clubs to sell-out rock concert halls. Whether electric or acoustic, Corea remains enormously popular fusing jazz and rock impulses at earsplitting decibels, or amps, performing mini-sonatas on a quiet classical stage.
Anthony Armando Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1941, to Armando and Anna (Zaccone) Corea. He received his nickname Chick from one of his aunts, who called him "Cheeky" whenever she pinched his cheek. His father, a second-generation Italian, played trumpet and bass in the society and Dixieland bands he led around Boston. "He wrote out arrangements of popular songs for me," Corea recalled to Len Lyons in High Fidelity . "He always kept them to my level, so the language of music became familiar to me." Corea was taught piano at home as a four-year-old, and drums later as an eight-year-old. His only formal lessons were in classical piano with local instructor Salvatore Sullo. The adolescent Corea played piano at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and area functions before his graduation from Chelsea High School in 1959. Moving to New York City the same year, Corea entered Columbia University, but dropped out after one month. The next ten months he practiced piano eight hours a day to audition at the Juilliard School of Music. Accepted at Juilliard as a piano major, he remained two months. Corea left when he realized a conventional education was not for him.
During the sixties Corea joined the ensemble Mongo Santamaria and the Willie Bobo combo. He worked as a sideman for Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz. Subsequently, his debut albums, including Tones for Miss Bones (1966) and The Song of Singing, appeared. In 1968 he was an accompanist for Sarah Vaughan when keyboardist Herbie Hancock called him. Hancock was on his honeymoon and needed Corea to replace him for a Baltimore date with jazz's hottest star, Miles Davis. When he joined his childhood idol's band replacing Hancock in 1969, Corea got acquainted with the electric piano through Davis. Chick put the instrument to use during his two years with Davis making albums, including Bitches Brew, which became the paradigm album of jazz-rock fusion.
In 1970 Corea converted to the Church of Scientology, whose founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard, practiced a method of unblocking the mind he called "dianetics." Though Corea did not consider himself religious, he followed Scientology's approach to pare off the mind's emotional baggage and discovered artistic impetus. Later the same year he formed the group Circle with Davis's former bassist Dave Holland, drummer Barry Altschul, and reed player Anthony Braxton. Together they recorded the albums Circling In and Circulus, among others, but audiences did not find the group accessible. "Not enough people could relate to us...," Corea stated in The Pleasures of Jazz. "They were pleased by the technical brilliance of the performance, though the content and feeling would be a mystery to them." Corea learned his lesson and began to pursue "namely the simple desire to reach out and communicate."
The winner of nine best keyboardist polls from 1973 to 1979, Corea has since solved his communication problems. His popularity soared as a solo artist with three volumes of Piano Improvisations in the seventies. He began his on-going duos with vibraharpist Gary Burton at the same time, recording Crystal Silence and Duet . From 1972 until 1976, Corea let loose the decibels with his energized fusion band Return to Forever. The group, whose most memorable members were drummer Lenny White and guitarists Bill Connors and Al DiMeola, recorded eight albums, including 1975 Grammy Award winner No Mystery. Composing and arranging his own suites, Corea received two more Grammy Awards the next year with the solo album The Leprechaun. In 1977 the Latin-element album My Spanish Heart sold 170,000 copies, an unprecedented number for a jazz recording. The following year People reported the critical concordance that "together the two friends have created what many jazz critics consider the tour of the decade" when Corea and Herbie Hancock improvised Bela Bartok, George Gershwin, and Miles Davis in duets on acoustic grand pianos. The album Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea in Concert 1978 proved that fusion master Corea was just as comfortable concertizing. Corea met his second wife, vocalist and composer Gayle Moran, in the seventies, when she began her musical collaboration with him on several of his albums, and she was featured prominently as part of Corea's group Return to Forever.
From the eighties to the present, Corea has been just as successful. In 1982 he won an additional Grammy Award for further work with Gary Burton on Chick Corea and Gary Burton in Concert. Continuing his solo work, he also collaborated with various musicians from jazz, crossover, and classical fields, including Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Eddie Gomez, Miroslav Vitous, violinist Ida Kavafian, and cellist Fred Sherry. In 1986 he emulated Mozart at a performance of his own concerto with the Philharmonia Virtuosi in New York. While forming his Elektric Band in 1985, Corea began to fuse an acoustic piano with an electric keyboard. Finding the balance of instruments that had eluded him previously, Corea produced the album many critics viewed as the best jazz-rock record of 1988 with Eye of the Beholder.
In 1990 Chick Corea and his Elektric Band--bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Frank Gambale, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal--put together "more of a musician's album" with Inside Out wrote Ricardo Silveira in Playboy . Though some critics dubbed him "Mr. Scientology" and have not always been receptive, the consensus opinion was stated by Silveira: "Just remember that there's an intellectual bent to Chick's music making--he does that sort of thing as well as it can be done."
Corea lives in Hollywood Hills with Gayle Moran. His first wife remained in Boston to raise his two (now adult) children, Thaddeus and Liana. A workaholic who tours in a bus that once belonged to country star Merle Haggard, Chick Corea wants to compose more orchestral and chamber pieces in the future. Rendering a fitting homage to the jazz leader, Woodward wrote, "Corea's mission of mind-expansion barrels forward, with signposts in the subconscious, the fingers, and the airwaves."
by Marjorie Burgess
Chick Corea's Career
Chick Corea's Awards
Grammy Award for best jazz performance, 1975, for No Mystery; two Grammy Awards, 1976, for album The Leprechaun; Grammy Award for best jazz album, 1982, for Chick Corea and Gary Burton In Concert.
- Selective Works
- Tones for Miss Bones, 1966.
- The Song of Singing.
- Chick Corea, Blue Note.
- Piano Improvisations, Vol. 1 & 2, ECM, 1971.
- No Mystery, 1975.
- The Leprechaun, Polydor, 1976.
- My Spanish Heart, Polydor, 1977.
- The Mad Hatter, Polydor, 1979.
- Three Quartets, Warner Brothers, 1980.
- Elektric Band, GRP, 1986.
- Light Years, GRP.
- Eye of the Beholder, GRP, 1988.
- Beneath the Mask, GRP, 1991.
- Akoustic Band, GRP.
- Inside Out.
- Thunder from Down Under.
- With Gary Burton Crystal Silence, ECM, 1972.
- Duet , ECM.
- Corea/Burton , 1982.
- With Herbie Hancock Corea/Hancock , Polydor.
- An Evening With..., Columbia, 1978.
- With Return to Forever Return to Forever, ECM, 1973.
- Light As A Feather, Polydor, 1973.
- Musicmagic , Columbia.
- With Circle Circling In, Blue Note, 1968.
- Circulus , Blue Note, 1970.
- Paris Concert, ECM.
- With Miles Davis Bitches Brew, Columbia, 1970.
February 8, 2004: Corea won the Grammy Award for best jazz instrumental solo, for "Matrix." Source: 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx, February 8, 2004.
- Feather, Leonard, The Pleasures of Jazz, Horizon, 1976.
- Lyons, Len, The Great Jazz Pianists, Morrow, 1983.
- Down Beat, March 9, 1978; June 1981; January 1986; June 1986; September 1988.
- High Fidelity, February 1979.
- People, March 13, 1978; May 15, 1989.
- Playboy, July 1990.