The jazz pioneer Chick Corea has died at the age of 79.
According to a post on his Facebook page, the musician died from “a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently”. In his career, Corea won 23 Grammys and was the fourth most-nominated artist in Grammys history.
“Throughout his life and career, Chick relished in the freedom and the fun to be had in creating something new, and in playing the games that artists do,” the post read. “He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a great mentor and friend to so many. Through his body of work and the decades he spent touring the world, he touched and inspired the lives of millions.”
Corea was a multi-faceted musician, working as a composer, keyboardist, bandleader and occasional percussionist. He was a part of Miles Davis’s band in the late 60s and appeared on key Davis albums such as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson and On the Corner.
After working with Davis, he formed his own band, Return to Forever, experimenting with different genres and styles. “There was a synergy going on between what we were creating and how audiences were digging it,” Corea said of their music.
He also formed his own avant-garde group, Circle. He worked on many other projects, including duos with Herbie Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton. He recorded and performed classical music, standards, solo originals, Latin jazz and tributes to great jazz pianists.
Last year, Corea released the double album Plays, which captured him at various concerts armed simply with his piano.
“Like a runner loves to run because it just feels good, I like to play the piano just because it feels good,” he told the Associated Press at the time. “I can just switch gears and go to another direction or go to another song or whatever I want to do. So it’s a constant experiment.”
The double album was a peek into Corea’s musical heart, containing songs he wrote about children decades ago as well as tunes by Mozart, Thelonious Monk and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Tributes have poured in from across the music industry, including from the rapper Q-Tip who tweeted “RIP to one of the coldest pianist/keyboardist/songwriters of ALL TIME”, and the musician Mike Portnoy who posted: “So sad to hear of the passing of @ChickCorea One of the pioneers of jazz/fusion keyboards. Return To Forever was one of the first real Supergroups and such a huge influence.”
“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright,” Corea said in a final statement also shared on Facebook. “It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.”