Chick Corea, Pianist & Jazz Fusion Pioneer, Dies at 79

Chick Corea
Luciano Viti/Getty Images

Chick Corea photographed in Rome, Italy in 1992.

Chick Corea, the jazz great who played in Miles Davis' band before creating a name for himself by composing his own jazz standards and pioneering new sounds on the piano, died Tuesday at age 79. According to a post on his Facebook page, Corea died of a rare form of cancer that was only recently diagnosed.

"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 Facebook post reads. "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."

Born Armando Anthony Corea in Massachusetts in 1941, the keyboard player performed alongside other musicians before releasing his debut album, Tones for Joan's Bones, in 1966. His pioneering style on electric piano is what led to him playing with Davis' band into 1970, helping lead the jazz fusion movement. In the '70s, he formed the jazz fusion band Return to Forever.

Corea was first nominated for a Grammy in 1973: best instrumental arrangement for "Spain" and best jazz performance by a group for Return to Forever's Light as a Feather. He went on to win 23 awards from 67 nominations -- including two this year, for best improvised jazz solo ("All Blues") and best jazz instrumental album (Trilogy 2). Corea's 23 Grammys put him eighth on the all-time winners list and sixth among male artists.

Throughout his 50-plus-year career, Corea landed eight entries on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart -- including his two An Evening With live LPs alongside Herbie Hancock in 1979 -- and 20 top 10s on the Traditional Jazz Albums chart.

Below, find the full statement from his Facebook page:

It is with great sadness we announce that on February 9th, Chick Corea passed away at the age of 79, from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.

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.

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.

Though he would be the first to say that his music said more than words ever could, he nevertheless had this message for all those he knew and loved, and for all those who loved him:

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. 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.

“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”

Chick’s family will of course appreciate their privacy during this difficult time of loss.

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