Chick Corea: Grammy Award-winning jazz legend dies of cancer aged 79

In a final message, the composer and pianist urged budding musicians to perform

FILE - Chick Corea poses in the press room with the awards for best improvised jazz solo for "Fingerprints" and best jazz instrumental album for "Trilogy" at the 57th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. Corea, a towering jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, has died. He was 79. Corea died Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, of a rare for of cancer, his team posted on his web site. His death was confirmed by Corea's web and marketing manager, Dan Muse. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
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Chick Corea, the American jazz composer and electric keyboard trailblazer whose visionary fusion work stretched the traditional boundaries of genre, has died of cancer aged 79.

Corea's illness "was only discovered very recently", a statement posted on his Facebook page on Thursday revealed.

"I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright," read a message the 23-time Grammy Award winner left prior to his February 9 passing, which his team released in the statement.

"It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun."

The dynamic composer and bandleader, whose compositions-turned-jazz standards included Spain, 500 Miles High and La Fiesta, was among a select group of talent that also featured Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett, who all emerged as some of the 20th century's most influential pianists.

Over his more than half-a-century-long career, Corea established himself as a revolutionary of the 1970s jazz fusion era, experimenting with rock and electronic sounds to shake the genre into contemporary times.

"We have a mission to go out there and be an antidote to war and all of the dark side of what happens on Planet Earth," he told NPR in 2018, explaining the role of an artist.

"We're the ones that go in and remind people about their creativity."

Born Armando Corea in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, the musician was introduced to the piano at a young age by his jazz trumpeter father, and took an early interest in bebop.

The pianist, who also played the drums, began musical studies at both Columbia University and The Juilliard School before quitting to play full time.

A pioneer of solo piano shows, Corea was a master of everything from classical to standards to swing and Latin jazz, touring relentlessly until the pandemic halted live concerts.

Corea's mammoth discography earned him 67 Grammy nominations.

He has more jazz Grammys than any other artist, and is up for two awards at next month's ceremony honouring music's brightest: Best Improvised Jazz Solo for All Blues and Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Trilogy 2.