Armando “Chick” Corea was born one year later than Herbie Hancock and initially seemed destined to follow him, as a member of Miles Davis’ outfit and as a Blue Note recording artist. Corea’s Blue Note albums, recorded in his mid 20s, showed a facility for complex composition and a ferociously fast imagination. His first recording, Tones For Joan’s Bones (1968), features horns, but it was in the subsequent trio settings that his early music found its most unique expression. Of these, the later compilation Circling In (1976) is a good place to start. Corea also recorded several album’s worth of exciting free jazz as a member of Circle with Barry Altschul, Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton.
In early 1972, Corea released an electric fusion album with a group that consisted of Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim; the record was called Return To Forever. RTF would become one of the leading voices in the new fusion movement, at its peak consisting of a quartet that featured Corea, Clarke, Lenny White and Al DiMeola. In between RTF releases, Corea continued to release his own recordings, including My Spanish Heart (1976), The Mad Hatter (1978) and collaborations with Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton.
Corea’s style is expositional in nature; he’ll introduce a theme, then provide commentary for and against it. There have been a few occasions where I’ve felt the charge of “too many notes” (made famous in the film Amadeus) might have been justly applied to Corea as well. More often however, are the occasions where Corea’s commentary opens new avenues of discovery. Although born and raised in Massachusetts, Corea has always had an affinity for Latin music, which can be heard in his melodies and his solos.
In the 1980s, Corea put RTF to bed and focused on longer jazz/classical compositions including Three Quartets (1981), Lyric Suite For Sextet (1983) and Septet (1985). He also reunited with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes for a pair of albums: Trio Music (1982) and Trio Music Live In Europe (1986). The Eighties were also notable for the introduction of a new fusion group, The Chick Corea Elektric Band (and its later Akoustic incarnation), which introduced listeners to John Pattitucci and Dave Weckl.
In the last two decades, Corea has played the role of the living and very active legend while leading the Akoustic/Elektric band, forming a new band (Origin), releasing solo albums, reviving RTF for a few profitable dates and collaborating with artists as diverse as Bobby McFerrin, Hiromi Euhara, Nicoloas Economou and Stefano Bollani.