When John Prine passed last spring, a lot of praise and admiration came out of tweets and web sites and publications that would never consider covering Americana, or folk, or whatever you want to call John’s music. His talent was so immense it surpassed a single genre and came to be a gold standard for the entire music industry. We lost another one of those musicians this week, Chick Corea.
My introduction to Corea came in my first week of college when a new, music-head friend introduced me to Return To Forever, and their album Romantic Warrior. It was like one of those cartoons: a puff of dust out of my ears and, boom, mind blown. I knew a little about jazz. Even in middle-of-nowhere Missouri I knew people with records from Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, maybe even Dave Brubeck. I thought I knew a lot about rock. This was neither. And it was both. Music had gained a new dimension for me.
Corea’s sweet spot was, of course, jazz. He’d worked his way up to be part of Miles Davis’ band before he was thirty, and performed with a modern day who’s who of jazz artists, from Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, and John McLaughlin to Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Metheny. Where his talent really shone, in my opinion, was in many of the recordings and concerts he did as a duo. That’s as stripped down as it gets in the jazz world and provided Corea a showcase for his love of all music. His colleagues in those adventures ranged from classical pianists to banjo players (Bela Fleck, whom we all know well).
Over the course of his career Corea was nominated for 67 Grammy’s, and he won 23 times. Outside the popular music sphere, that’s an unheard of accomplishment. It also points to the richness of his catalog. So next time you’re ready to push the edges of your personal music box, listen to some Chick Corea. Rest in peace, you musical paragon.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.