Chick Corea leaves behind a jazz legacy

Student explores his passion and love for jazz music in honor and inspiration of Chick Corea


Joe Cho, Assistant Life Editor

On Feb. 9, Armando “Chick” Corea passed away in his Tampa Bay home from a rare form of cancer. At the age of 79, he was still very much active on his social media accounts teaching and producing his online masterclass: “The Chick Corea Academy.” Now met with his untimely death, Corea leaves only his wisdom behind. Revered by many as a virtuoso and often hailed as one of the contemporary giants of jazz, such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, Chick Corea was nothing short of extraordinary.

As a legend among the jazz community, his craft on the ivory was truly inspirational. With 67 Grammy nominations (23 of which he won) and four additional Latin Grammy awards, Chick Corea’s genius and accomplishments were products of his youthful poise and imagination. From his formative years as an ambitious apprentice of classical and bebop to his professional years experimenting with jazz-rock, jazz fusion, Latin, avant-garde and even chamber compositions, he became a breathing, walking compendium for all things considered music. He was full of wisdom, enthusiasm and delivered invigorating sounds, which was a testament to his powerful performance. That’s why when I heard about his passing, I was shaken to my core. He was one of my heroes.

Around the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I started getting serious about jazz and its unsung disposition. At that time, I religiously followed the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson and Charles Mingus — the bebop behemoths. I slowly grew out of my “jazz elitism” phase  and ventured more out into the realm of funk and free-flowing fusion. It was during this time  that I stumbled upon Chick Corea, a master jazz pianist and a forefather of jazz-fusion, who completely changed my insular perspective on what “good”  jazz music should be instead of what great jazz music could be. 

Throughout my high school jazz career as a trombonist, I garnered insightful tips and inspiration from a pianist. It was through his albums and collaborations with other maestros that I learned how to play as a considerate and tactful musician. 

And sometimes his album songs served no didactic purposes, just mere good, catchy headbangers like his most well-known records, “Spain,” “La Fiesta” and “Señor Mouse,” all Latin-influenced and concussive ear candies.

However, as I recounted the grandeur that was his life’s work, there was one album, that truly stood out from the rest. Chick Corea’s Trilogy 2 album was his final live project with his beloved friends, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, which they decided to promote through a nationwide tour. Sticking to their roots as jazz musicians, the trio kept it minimal with upright double bass, a drum kit and a grand piano, visiting obscure cities like Patchogue, NY and Winston-Salem, NC.

It was Oct. 24, 2019. I was sitting in the fourth row by the right side of the Wait Chapel completely entranced by the sounds of the live acoustic band and enamored by the man who was delicately in command of those 88 keys. Unbeknownst to me, that night would be the last time I would witness Chick Corea’s pure greatness.