Chick Corea, Jazz Keyboardist and Innovator, Dies at 79


Also in 1972, Mr. Corea teamed up for the first time with the vibraphonist Gary Burton to record another album for the same label, “Crystal Silence.” The two became longtime friends and collaborators. Taken together, the two ECM albums represented something close to the full breadth of Mr. Corea’s identity as a musician — ranging from the serene and meditative to the zesty and driving.

“We made that record in three hours; every song but one was a first take,” Mr. Burton said in an interview, recalling the “Crystal Silence” sessions. They would go on to record seven duet albums, and they continued performing together until Mr. Burton’s recent retirement.

“I kept thinking, ‘Surely it’s going to run out of steam here at some point,’” Mr. Burton said. “And it never did. Even at the end, we would still come offstage excited and thrilled by what we were doing.”

Return to Forever changed personnel frequently, but its most enduring lineup featured Mr. Corea, Mr. Clarke, the guitarist Al Di Meola and the drummer Lenny White. That quartet iteration released a string of popular albums — “Where Have I Known You Before” (1974), “No Mystery” (1975) and “Romantic Warrior” (1976) — that leaned into a blazing, hard-rock-influenced style, and each reached the Top 40 on the Billboard albums chart.

Mr. Corea released a number of other influential fusion albums on his own, including “My Spanish Heart” (1976) and a string of recordings with his Elektric Band and his Akoustic Band. Later in his career he also delved deeply into the Western classical tradition, recording works by canonical composers like Mozart and Chopin, and composing an entire concerto for classical orchestra.

“His versatility is second to none when it comes to the jazz world,” Mr. Burton said. “He played in so many styles and settings and collaborations.”

In 1997, delivering a commencement address at Berklee College of Music, Mr. Corea told the members of the graduating class to insist on blazing their own path. “It’s all right to be yourself,” he said. “In fact, the more yourself you are, the more money you make.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.



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