Chick Corea: Five of the fusion pioneer’s best tracks
13.02.2021

Chick Corea: Five of the fusion pioneer’s best tracks

Words by David Tomisich

We revisit five audacious moments from the late jazz legend's back catalogue.

Chick Corea was the ultimate musical chameleon, one who treated jazz not as a genre in and of itself, but as a concept that could be amalgamated with other musical styles. His music and philosophy will undoubtedly stand the test of time, and inevitably inspire generations of future musicians.

To celebrate the legacy of the jazz-fusion icon, we’re getting reacquainted with five of the most memorable moments in Chick Corea’s discography, shining a light on his life’s work and contributions to the contemporary canon as we know it today.

‘Spain’ – Light As A Feather (1971)

After having played on Miles Davis’ seminal 1969 electric fusion LP In A Silent Way, Chick decided to take this steadily-evolving incarnation of jazz and imbue it with elements of Spanish and Brazilian traditional music.

The composer’s choice of instrumentation on ‘Spain’ is nothing short of inspired, with the innovative combination of Farrell’s flute, Corea’s Rhodes and Flora Purim’s ethereal vocals making this a track that will endure for many generations to come.

‘Crystal Silence’ – Return To Forever (1972)

If there were ever a track to showcase the inimitably crystalline tone of the Fender Rhodes, then this jam from Chick’s LP Return To Forever does exactly this. Chick’s sparse but typically thoughtful voicing is accompanied by Joe Farrell’s wailing soprano saxophone, while the keyboard maestro utilises a shimmering pan effect that takes this tune to a stratospheric level. 

 

‘The Romantic Warrior’ – The Romantic Warrior (1976) 

While arguably not as accessible as some of the records that preceded it, 1976’s The Romantic Warrior sees Corea and co. at their most musically audacious. Featuring the likes of bass master Stanley Clarke on double bass, Al De Meola on acoustic guitar and Lenny White on drums, the album’s title track is a rhapsodic masterpiece, filled to the brim with musical non-sequiturs, baroque-inspired runs and blistering solos.

The interplay between Chick’s piano and Clarke’s slaloming double bass part is almost conversational in nature, with the pair demonstrating why they were one of the most formidable jazz fusion partnerships of the decade. 

‘Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy’ – Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973)

Who else – bar Chick Corea – would dare write a prog rock track in the structure of a jazz tune, all the while featuring ‘The Lick’ as its main motif? While a definite oddity in the Chick Corea catalogue, there’s something strangely satisfying about ‘Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy’.

Chick’s gritty Hammond tone is Jon Lord-esque, with Lenny White holding things together with a watertight drum part. 

‘Armando’s Rhumba’ – My Spanish Heart (1976)

Chick’s trademark penchant for innovation and reinvention saw him meld his own interpretation of jazz with countless other musical styles, including classical, progressive rock and funk to name just a few. ‘Armando’s Rhumba’ is just another example of Corea’s creative versatility, as he incorporates traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms amongst a sea of harmonic richness.

Chick teams up with French violinist Jean Luc-Ponty to provide a searing melodic line, while the clave handclaps encapsulate the very spirit of the Afro-Cuban Rhumba. 

Fly 500 Miles High, Chick.

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