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‘Fantastic … Just Like Him:’ All Night Jazz Director Remembers Clearwater Jazz Legend Chick Corea

Chick Corea performs in Melbourne, Australia in February 2011.
Martin Philbey / NPR (Courtesy of the artist)
Chick Corea performs in Melbourne, Australia in February 2011.

Mike Cornette, WUSF All Night Jazz director, fondly remembers Chick Corea, renowned jazz keyboardist and Clearwater resident who touched the life of Cornette and countless others. Corea died at age 79.

The music world was stunned Thursday by the news that Chick Corea, the Clearwater resident and one of the most renowned figures in contemporary jazz, had died at 79.

According to a statement on his website, Corea died Tuesday of what was called “a very rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently.”

The keyboardist has been a jazz superstar for more than five decades, earning 67 Grammy Award nominations — including two this year for his “Trilogy 2” recording also featuring Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums — and winning 23 times.

Chick Corea Trilogy: All Blues feat. Christian McBride & Brian Blade (Official Audio)

He was also a frequent featured artist on WUSF’s All Night Jazz, and has been interviewed multiple times by Jazz Director Mike Cornette.

Cornette recalls how Corea – who performed recently at Ruth Eckerd Hall and Mahaffey Theater — seemed to thrive as he got older, and how his music was as vital as it had ever been.

Mike Cornette and WUSF's All Night Jazz will be remembering Chick Corea Saturday night at 9.

“To see Chick Corea over these last several years, one would think he was nearly immortal,” Cornette said Thursday night. “Sure, he was 79. But while others aged, he seemed younger at every turn. He looked great. His mind was facile. His playing was beyond fantastic.

“I remember chatting with him not too long ago about his record deal, and how he had leveraged all these amazing live solo and trio recordings he had. And he leveraged those in order to get them to help with his Antidote recording. And that ended up being a Grammy winner.”

All Night Jazz cited Corea for his work as recently as January, when he was a featured artist for one week following his Grammy nominations.

Cornette also interviewed Corea as recently as October, prior to a two-night appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall. They addressed several topics, including his Grammy nominations.

Chick Corea Talks to WUSF's Mike Cornette

Trilogy 2 was nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, and his solo recording of the Miles Davis classic “All Blues” was also nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Cornette recalls an instance where Corea turned the tables and honored Cornette before a performance.

“I'll never forget when he played at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater, and he asked Bob Seymour, our former jazz director, and I to co-emcee this show, and then backstage he got this idea that he should introduce us before we introduced him,” Cornette said. “His recording engineer said ‘No, don't do it.’ His wife, Gail Moran — and our thoughts are with her — said, don't do it. But he did. And it was fantastic. Just like him.”

Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Tiny Desk Concert

We'll remember Corea Saturday night on All Night Jazz with a special three-hour presentation of both his words and his music.

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