Remembering Chick Corea with this Mozart-Gershwin improvisation that proves his transcendent genius

12 February 2021, 13:05 | Updated: 12 February 2021, 13:59

Chick Corea Mozart
Chick Corea Mozart. Picture: Getty

By Kyle Macdonald

As the jazz world mourns one of its greatest virtuosos, we turn to one of his final improvisations that captures his magic.

This week we lost one of the great musicians of our time.

Composer and pianist Chick Corea was born in Massachusetts, in 1941. His musical career spanned over seven decades. He wrote jazz standards, was a teacher, and was regarded as one of the most generous, collaborative people in music.

His family announced he passed away on 9 February, at the age of 79, from a rare form of cancer that was only discovered very recently.

Corea played in Miles Davis' band in the late 60s and, at an electric piano, was a core figure in the birth of jazz fusion. Though he was a true virtuoso of the age of electronic music, he led acoustic jazz groups alongside.

His musical interests were everywhere.

Whether it was blues or Bartók, it was beneath his fingers and swirling in his ever-musical mind. He played Mozart double concertos with fellow classical jazzer, Keith Jarrett. He also had a long-time collaboration with vocalist Bobby McFerrin, with whom he recorded Mozart, improvisations and much more.

In this video, recorded live on his social media channels just last month, Corea recorded one of his piano exercises as a way to offer insight to other pianists.

Read more: Brains of jazz and classical musicians work differently, study reveals >

His advice that day was: “Put a camera on yourself and start recording and just play it. Then check it out – look at what you’re doing and see how you can improve. The more you do it, the better it can get.”

He took a Mozart sonata, and a Gershwin song, and weaved an improvisation from one to the other. You can hear a magical moment when he transitions from one to the other, and for a moment holds two distinct musical worlds together under his fingers.

Blending, exploring, creating, finding inspiration in every musical corner, and taking us all on a journey. That’s what he did best, and he will be missed.

Corea clearly loved exploring Mozart and Gershwin. Here's another improvisation from 2018, recorded in the historic Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.

Chick Combines Mozart's Piano Sonata in F & Gershwin's "The Man I Love" (2018)

In his 2018 solo piano performance at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Chick combined Mozart's Piano Sonata in F and Gershwin's "The Man I Love", as he says that those are two composers who he believes "mix very well" together.

Posted by Chick Corea on Tuesday, January 5, 2021