Chick Corea is gone

Chick Corea is gone


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2021

The great jazz pianist has died of a rare cancer at 79.

John Mayer, a regular partner, writes: ‘Chick Corea was the single greatest improvisational musician I have ever played with. Nobody was more open, more finely tuned to the moment, changing his approach with every new offering by the musicians around him. If you hit a wrong note, he’d immediately pick it up and play it as a motif so as to say ‘all of this has value, whether you see it or not.’

Born in Massachusetts of Italian parents, he started out playing with Stan Getz before becoming indispensable to Miles Davis. He played Mozart and other classical music for pleasure, and included it in his online teachings.

He was a devoted follower of the Scientology cult.

He played Chopin, too, with an inimitable audience involvement.

Chick Corea with Menahem Presler.

His recording home was Munich-based ECM Records.


  • Menahem Pressler says:

    I am desperately sad to hear this and did not know he was ill. I admired him enormously and last saw him in Ravinia when he gave an amazing concert. He told me afterwards he was learning a Mozart concerto. May he rest in peace!

  • DML says:

    Wonderfully enjoyable performance by two masters of the keyboard here:

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Chick was a great musician – he took Miles’ group in a direction that Miles encouraged, but the great Herbie Hancock didn’t want to get into.
    I will forgive him his “devoted followed” to the crazy Scientologists.

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      Why should Scientologists be called any more crazy than, say, devout Catholics, Hassidim, Tibetan monks, Baptist snake handlers, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints or really followers of any religion? Religious people depend on faith in the value of mythic figures and hard-to-believe stories. Whether these figures and stories are recent or ancient doesn’t matter.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I agree with you, “Mr. Knowitall”.
        But there was no point in mentioning the other religions in the context of Chick Corea’s death.

        • Mr. Knowitall says:

          My post was in reaction your jab of “crazy” in an otherwise warm remembrance of an admirable artist. There was nothing for which Corea needs to be forgiven. And there was no reason not to list other religions, one of which I was raised in, the one that buys into parting seas, burning bushes, plagues of blood, and many other things no crazier than the beliefs of Scientologists, although much older.

  • Larry says:

    An amazing talent. As I write this I am listening to Return To Forever’s first album, recorded in 1972. Absolutely beautiful!

  • David J Hyslop says:

    Heard Chick many times and met him once. He was a great artist and also a very nice person.

  • Kyle says:

    I was very sorry to learn of Chick Corea’s passing. I saw him only twice, but both were memorable. In one instance, John Patitucci flew in, arriving something like an hour prior to the gig when the band’s regular bass player had visa problems (as I recall it). Holy cow did that band play great that night! That was probably the best jazz performance I’ve ever witnessed.

    In the second instance, I had the pleasure of meeting Chick and Gary Burton backstage. I happened to be with a very well-know musician who asked Chick, “So, what do you do when you’re not playing with Gary?” Chick just very cordially said, “You know, I’ve got my own band.” I awkwardly mumbled something about being a big Return to Forever fan. That one still makes me cringe and laugh. The questioner bought me a very nice dinner after the show, so there’s that!

  • Chick Corea is my favorite jazz keyboard artist together with Bill Evans. Chick’s articulation, rhythm, and melodic freedom are incredible, expanding our collective experience of these primal musical elements. Some more thoughts here.

  • ap says:

    He dug Scarlatti.