RIP Chick Corea- a true icon of jazz music

“My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could”

— Chick Corea, February 2021

On February 9th the music world lost an icon nobody could measure up to—Chick Corea, Downbeat Hall of Famer and NEA Jazz Master, died of a rare form of cancer. He was 79. 

Chick was the fourth-most nominated artist in the history of the Grammys (65 nominations) and won 23 Grammys. He also earned three Latin Grammy awards— the most any artist has won in the Best Instrumental Album category. 

But to me it’s not necessarily his awards that make him such an icon in the world of music and jazz— it’s his mission that he lived out through music. He was truly a giant in the piano world and always one of my favorites. Even more from a “seeing eye to eye” standpoint, he understood the magic of music-making and improvisation not just as an art form, but as a vital part of the human experience.

John Mayer’s Instagram tribute to Corea was quoted in a Rolling Stone article about Corea’s death:

“Chick Corea was the single greatest improvisational musician I have ever played with,” John Mayer, who had appeared with Corea onstage, wrote on Instagram. “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. (emphasis mine)’ What an immeasurable loss in so many ways.”

Chick Corea (and his bands) was a big influence of mine in high school and college. When I was kind of migrating between drums and piano I spent a lot of hours in my life with headphones on playing along with his records. I was a sucker for all the smokin’ hot Latin grooves a lot of the tunes contained. He is one of the big reasons I still think I enjoy a Fender Rhodes electric piano sound/patch over any other non-acoustic piano sounds. Back then little did I know I would be here today with Piano in a Flash forwarding my goal of helping adults all over the world learn to play the piano.  

It was so poignant to read something he wrote in a message he had posted on Facebook before passing, and if you take nothing else from Chick Corea’s legacy, note this: 

“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.”

So let’s go forth and carry on Corea’s mission of having fun, bringing joy, and partaking in music-making–in our case on a piano! It’s the least we can do to celebrate the immeasurable gift he gave the world during his presence. 

RIP Chick Corea.

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