He’s a composer, keyboardist, bandleader, and a key figure in the birth of the jazz-fusion genre that we all adore. There’s no better person to feature on our Artists in Focus blog, during our Piano Week, than the sensational, Chick Corea.

Jazz Essential

With a father who was a jazz trumpeter in the Dixieland days in 1930s Boston, it’s safe to say that Mr. Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea was pretty exposed to jazz from a young age. In fact, the world of jazz completely swallowed him up. Chick was surrounded by huge figures like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Horace Silver, and after being introduced to the piano at the age of 4, this was shaping up to be a world that was not going to spit him back out any time soon.

And, much like Bill Evans, it was actually classical music that inspired Corea to get into composition, leading him to compose pieces that have been cemented in jazz history (and the Real Books!) – but we’ll get to that…

Return To Forever, Forever!

Chick’s career started off like many other jazz legends. He performed in a variety of bands and trios, releasing a selection of albums which built up his profile and popularity. One of these albums was created with Miroslav Vitous who would go on to form the fantastic Weather Report.

And this line-up of bands would eventually lead Chick Corea to Miles Davis. He featured on a few of Davis’ earth-shattering albums and performed with his band right into the beginning of the 70s. In 1971, Return To Forever was born, a group formed by Corea that has been hailed as one of the core pillars of the jazz-fusion movement alongside RSL Fellow, Billy Cobham’s band Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock’s The Headhunters, and Weather Report too. What a time to be a jazz musician!

In the late 70s, following the success of Return To Forever, Corea performed a series of concerts with fellow piano prince, Herbie Hancock – a gig that we certainly wish we were at! Almost borrowing from the classical tradition, these gigs were particularly formal, in elegant settings with elegant dress, and with both musicians on beautiful concert grand pianos. They even played some Bartok! This concert series came back in 2015 but with a modern twist introduced – the synthesizer!

But we can’t finish this blog without talking about Corea’s signature piece, “Spain”. An instrumental jazz-fusion composition, and, let’s be honest, utterly jaw-dropping tune, “Spain” is without doubt his most recognised work, and is now firmly cemented amongst the jazz standards. Written in 1971, it has since been recorded many more times and in many different styles – think flamenco and progressive bluegrass! Even Stevie Wonder has performed his version of “Spain”.

Rockschool graded music exams

And you too can record your own version of this hit tune, as we’ve included “Spain” in RSL Grade 8 Piano, as well as RSL Grade 8 Keys, as it truly deserves its place in both. We’re ready and waiting for the Chick Corea of the 2020’s to emerge.

If you enjoyed this blog, there’s plenty more where that came from. In fact, we’ve included quite a few of the jazz crew now, including Snarky Puppy, and many others featured throughout this piece! Make sure you check them out.