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About this Piece

Chick Corea was born into a music-loving family, his father being a jazz trumpeter. He began playing piano at four and percussion at eight, the latter influencing the strongly punctuated mode of his eventual style as a jazz pianist. A month at Columbia University and a brief spell at the Juilliard School clarified that academic training did not agree with him. He moved directly into a performing career, appearing with such figures as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Herbie Mann, and Stan Getz in the 1960s, and he released his own debut album, Tones for Joan’s Bones, in 1966. In 1968, he assumed the spot in Miles Davis’s band that had previously been occupied by Herbie Hancock, and he began to draw on the possibilities of electric pianos in addition to acoustic instruments.

He became a leading presence in the movements of free jazz and jazz fusion. He appeared in solo concerts, in jazz ensembles, and in a number of duo formations, including (for the last) with bassist Dave Holland and vibraphonist Gary Burton. He appeared in duo recitals—and made a pair of albums with—Herbie Hancock; they would characteristically play each other’s compositions as well as pieces by Béla Bartók. Other classical-jazz fusion projects included his collaborations with classical pianist Friedrich Gulda. In the 1990s, he performed duo-concerts with vocalist Bobby McFerrin; their work was released on the 1996 recording The Mozart Sessions, on which Corea also was the soloist in two Mozart piano concertos.

He wrote Spain in 1971 and included it on his album Light as a Feather. Probably his most famous composition, it begins by referencing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and proceeds from there into a samba. It has been covered in some three dozen recordings by artists of many stripes, including timbalero Tito Puente, trumpeter Art Farmer, flutist James Galway, banjo player Béla Fleck, ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, and ensembles ranging from Blood, Sweat & Tears to Manhattan Transfer. In the late 1990s, Corea adapted it into a piano concerto, which he performed with the London Philharmonic. —James M. Keller