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The Truth About Mainstream Jazz Legends: Corea, Hancock & Clarke

Updated on January 21, 2021
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna has worked in the entertainment business for over 20 years, promoting special events with musicians, celebrities, and dignitaries.

Jazz Legends

Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, or Stanley Clarke bring the soul of the jazz to the surface. All three have performed together in their early careers as well as later in their legendary careers. Who are these jazz legends? What is their story?

Chick Corea Life as a Jazz Legend

Chick Corea is a legend and by far the most esteemed and persuasive jazz composer, keyboardist, and first and foremost. Throughout the industry jazz, connoisseurs strongly assert that he is the father of electric jazz fusion as a movement and accomplishment.

One can’t help agree that he epitomizes the movement when they see him perform or play one of his many jazz music albums. His sound is well-known throughout the world, composing jazz standards while performing with nearly all the leading jazz entertainers during his lengthy career.

On June 12, 1941, Anthony Armando Corea is his birth name when he arrived in his mother’s arms in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The first time he played an instrument was the piano at the age of four, where his father encouraged him. Chick’s father Armando was a performer in the ’30s and ‘40s, as a well-known bandleader. During his developing years, Chick devoted his time to listen to Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Bach. He spent a great deal of time with his ear to the talents of Bud Powell, Lester Young, Horace Silver, and Charlie Parker. All of these talented and well-known artists had a deep-down effect on the seeking pianist.

Early Years of Jazz Music

At the beginning of his career, Chick performed with the best, including Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Herbie Mann, and Willie Bobo. Each and of these performers inspired his affinity for Latin American melodies. One for one, you could add Chick to your playlist, listen to his tunes, and appreciate his talent for the percussive beat and double-time send-up that suffuses Latin music.

Entertainingly, Chick performed with other legends like Gary Burton, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, and Blue Mitchell. Soon, in 1968, he started playing with the super talented Miles Davis' band. He went over the top playing his electric piano With Mile's Band. Tune into their highly celebrated In a Silent Way album and the singled out, top of the charts Bitches Brew.

On a jazz high, Chick continued to create, perform, record with many distinguished artists. Joining forces as a trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes with Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. The album shaped a staple sound in the record anthologies toward the end of the 1960s.

Return to Forever

Corea’s cutting-edge band called Circle, from 1969 to 1971, was an essential push into the free form of improvisation, indicating the inspiration of jazz artists, such as Paul Bley and Ornette Coleman, and deriving from 20th Century originators such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

All good things must come to an end when the Circle separated in 1972. Chick, being a creator, put together his next band called Return to Forever. The group included such talents as singer Flora Purim, reedman Joe Farrell, Stanley Clarke, and Airto Moreira. Resulting in two celebrated albums of graceful, energizing Latin-laced music, the band tipped their talent concerning the electronic aspect of jazz by fetching spirited drummer Lenny White and the multi-talented, electric guitarist Bill Connors.

Fusion of Jazz

Like all bands, some members leave and get replaced. Such as Connors getting replaced by guitarist Al DiMeola in 1974. But, Return to Forever continued to lead fusion movement up to the point when the band split up in 1976. Chick kept on touring with a small but talented orchestra, comprising of a 13-piece assembly of strings and horns. The tour, without a doubt, was a success because the 13-piece musicians were the mighty fusion of jazz and entertainment.

Chick continues a legendary career of Grammy awards, sold-out performances, and bestselling albums. He charms jazz aficionados with astounding jazz quartets to energizing fusion quintets and distinguished trios to standard duets.

Herbie Hancock Performs Beyond The Boundaries

Any jazz aficionado willingly concurs one of the real legends of music is by far Herbie Hancock. His abounding career in music extends no boundaries of genres. Yet, he maintains his recognizable voice. His five-decade career has won him 12 Grammy Awards involving Album of the Year in 2007 in support of “River: The Joni Letters.” Not enough words can describe the man. He is one of the jazz legends of all time, bringing the soul of jazz to the audiences worldwide.

Hancock created a dramatic change in acoustic as well as electronic jazz, including R&B. He appears immortal because he is older than 71 years of age but looks like a young 50-year-old.

Jazz-Rock Fusion

Many Hancock devotees agree since he effortlessly crossed over his music, he is, without a doubt, one of the most treasured jazz musicians ever to grace the movement. Undeniably, Miles Davis is standing above the rest, and Hancock acknowledges Davis. Still, Davis understood talent when he heard it. He applauses Hancock in his autobiography.

Hancock flexibility kept him centerstage performing jazz-rock fusion, funk, free jazz, bebop, world fusion, hip-hop, instrumental pop, and dance. All of his talents brought him 11 albums throughout the 70s and 17 from 1973 to 1984, including three in 1974. Such production is unsurpassed and placing him as one of the best eclectic musicians in all aspects of the jazz movement.

Child Prodigy

It is no revelation that he is a celebrated child prodigy at the young age of seven playing the piano. Once in high school, he gravitated in the direction of jazz, establishing his jazz troupe. Confidently recognized as a jazz artist when he graduated from college, he started playing with well-known performers like Coleman Hawkins and Donald Byrd in Chicago. As soon as he merged with Byrd's quintet, he went to where the jazz was happening, New York City.

Jazz aficionados agree that Hancock's artistic calling, during his time with Byrd, was advancing his kind of music, blending gospel, the blues, and bebop. The result was "Watermelon Man" as his first hit.

Hooked Up With Mile Davis

After that, he united with renowned Miles Davis quintet, and along with Tony Williams and Ron Carter, they develop into the rhythm section. The Davis quintet delves into jazz as more adaptable and less unchanging music.

Of course, Hancock was beginning as a jazz musician, and he continues to perform with various top artists on the planet, never dropping his focus while broadening the boundaries of his music.

Stanley Clarke Thrills the Jazz Movement

In 1971, a fresh graduate from Philadelphia Academy of Music, bassist Stanley Clarke reached the New York jazz scene without much preamble. He soon was playing with prominent bandleaders like Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Pharaoh Saunders, Dexter Gordon, Joe Anderson, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey. Clarke even jammed with Chick Corea, who, during this time, was a young pianist-composer recognized as a jazz talent.

At the time of his arrival in New York, jazz lovers, as well as musicians, were captivated by Clarke’s irresistible inventiveness and across-the-boards musical capacity with the acoustic bass.

He is more than competent at the technique of working the bass lines and managing as a vibrant timekeeper, but he has a magnificent consciousness of lyricism and melody.

He has mentioned several times he learned from his champions Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro, including John Coltrane, who is a non-bass player. Clarke imagined the bass as a necessary and melodic instrument situated at the front of the stage, not its ordinary location in the background. Listen to Clarke’s music, and you will not argue this point.

"School Days"

Clarke's vision became an actuality when he and Corea established the influential electric jazz and fusion band called Return to Forever. The innovative group was a substantial show for each of the band member's deep-seated musical personas.

The band turned out eight albums, two of which went gold, "Romantic Warrior" and "Return to Forever." The group even won a Grammy for their album called "No Mystery."

After Return to Forever, members split and went their different ways. Clarke concentrated on recording the "Stanley Clarke" album, presenting his hit song, "Lopsy Lu." Two years later, he recorded and released his next album, "School Days." Interestingly, "School Days" turned out to be his foundation song that every up-and-coming bassist must master.

Slap Funk

Slap funk became Clarke’s must-learn technique as well, meaning all budding bassists must master it. Even though some consider Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone is the one who developed the basic slap technique, Clarke seized the style and took it up a notch playing intricate jazz harmonies.

Another exceptional quality about Clarke is that he is the first bassist to headline tours and sell-out shows worldwide. He crafted precious gemstones in recording studios that rolled into gold albums. At the vigorous age of twenty-five, he held center stage as a forerunner in the jazz-fusion movement.

Inventing New Bass Instruments

Clarke advanced and gave life to two new instruments. They were the tenor bass and piccolo bass. An octave higher compared to standard electric bass became the piccolo bass. One fourth higher register than the traditional bass became the tenor bass.

The excitement of the new instruments allowed Clarke to expand his aptitude and his range in melody to higher and more meaningful registers.

Granting Clarke’s career in music sustained and expanded to the point of succeeding with numerous awards in the mid-80s, he channeled his creative energy to film and television. First, on TV, he began with Pee Wee’s Playhouse and earned an Emmy-nomination for the score. He fared well and arrived on the big screen as performing and scoring his compositions for Boyz 'N the Hood, Romeo Must Die, and The Transporter.

Creates Music

Clarke returned to performing live and recording in the studio, after completing several film scores. He hasn’t stopped yet because he still creates music with budding jazz musicians and distinguished jazz artists worldwide.

They Still Play Together

You will still see and hear Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke produce the soul of the jazz to the lovers of the music. All three legends continue to perform together as they did in their early careers. Now, you know more about them and their stories.

© 2018 Kenna McHugh


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