It doesn’t seem possible that Chick Corea has died. I’ve loved his music since I first heard him in 1969. He always seemed young to me with incredible energy and a musical imagination and technique that was simply amazing. I just assumed he would be around for at least another 20 years. Such a fantastic musician!
The first time I saw him perform was in 1969, when he was playing with Miles Davis doing summer festivals. I think they played at the Newport Jazz Festival and several Festivals in Europe. Besides Miles and Chick, the quartet included Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. I was a young music student at the University of Texas at Austin playing in the UT Jazz Ensemble directed by Dick Goodwin; our band was the opening act for three nights of the Longhorn Jazz Festival in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. When we arrived the first afternoon for the sound check, the Miles Davis rhythm section was doing a sound check and they sounded fantastic. I didn’t know who Chick Corea was at that point. The trio was playing and everyone was remarking about how great they sounded. Later, someone in-the-know informed us that Chick was playing drums and Jack was playing piano in the warm-up! Blew our minds!
I had the privilege of having two conversations with Chick. The first was at the 2006 NEA Jazz Masters Luncheon at the IAJE Conference in New York. Since I was President of IAJE at that time, I was seated between Chick and Freddie Hubbard. Chick spoke about many things including his belief that we as teachers need to spend more time teaching students how to speak in public and how to present themselves and their music. Also, he talked about playing with Bobby McFerrin. He remarked that Bobby was one of the greatest musicians he had ever worked with. (I had the honor of introducing Chick and his trio - Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette - on the NEA Jazz Masters Concert that evening.) Freddie was really interesting also, as one might imagine. My other conversation with Chick was a few years later when he appeared with Gary Burton at the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Festival. I was able to speak to him backstage before his clinic in the afternoon. He was very gracious, friendly, and open.
Chick was elected to the ISJAC Hall of Fame in 2017 and he appeared at the Jazz Composers’ Symposium to accept the award. His performance with Chuck Owen’s Jazz Surge brought the house down! The photo here is of Chick and his wife Gayle Moran Corea with most of the ISJAC Board Members after that concert. RIP Chick Corea – one of the greatest musicians of our time!