Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (June 12, 1941 – February 9, 2021) was an American jazz composer, pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and occasional percussionist. His compositions “Spain“, “500 Miles High“, “La Fiesta”, “Armando’s Rhumba”, and “Windows” are widely considered jazz standards. As a member of Miles Davis‘s band in the late 1960s, he participated in the birth of jazz fusion. In the 1970s he formed Return to Forever. long with McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, and Keith Jarrett, Corea is considered one of the foremost jazz pianists of the post-John Coltrane era.
Corea continued to collaborate frequently while exploring different musical styles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He won 27 Grammy Awards and was nominated over 60 times.
Armando Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, to parents Anna (née Zaccone) and Armando J. Corea. He was of southern Italian descent, his father having been born to an immigrant from Albi comune, in the Province of Catanzaro in the Calabria region. His father, a trumpeter who led a Dixieland band in Boston in the 1930s and 1940s, introduced him to the piano at the age of four. Surrounded by jazz, he was influenced at an early age by bebop and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, and Lester Young. When he was eight, he took up drums, which would influence his use of the piano as a percussion instrument.
Corea developed his piano skills by exploring music on his own. A notable influence was concert pianist Salvatore Sullo, from whom Corea started taking lessons at age eight and who introduced him to classical music, helping spark his interest in musical composition. He also spent several years as a performer and soloist in the St. Rose Scarlet Lancers, a drum and bugle corps based in Chelsea.
Given a black tuxedo by his father, he started playing gigs while still in high school. He enjoyed listening to Herb Pomeroy‘s band at the time and had a trio that played Horace Silver’s music at a local jazz club. He eventually moved to New York City, where he studied music at Columbia University, then transferred to the Juilliard School. He quit both after finding them disappointing, but remained in New York.
Corea began his professional recording and touring career in the early 1960s with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz. He recorded his debut album, Tones for Joan’s Bones, in 1966 (not released until 1968). Two years later he released a highly regarded trio album, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Miroslav Vitous.
In 1968, Corea began recording and touring with Miles Davis, appearing on the widely praised Davis studio albums Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and On the Corner, as well as the later compilation albums Big Fun, Water Babiesand Circle in the Round.