Chick Corea could take it easy.
The 71-year-old has written an array of jazz standards that will live on long after he stops playing.
The charismatic Corea — who kicks off The Orpheum Theatre’s 2012 Fall Jazz Series on Friday — has made many different styles of music. He performed and recorded with Miles Davis in the ’60s and was present at the advent of electric jazz fusion.
He has made an impact in the acoustic jazz community. He has explored Latin jazz, excelled as an avant-garde jazz artist and dabbled in classical.
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The accomplished pianist/composer/bandleader, who will perform with Gary Burton and the Harlem String Quartet on Friday, could rest on his laurels.
“That wouldn’t be as much fun as playing,” said Corea, who began to study the piano when he was 4. “I love to play. I love music. I’ve played all kinds of music because I operate without borders. I’ve learned about and played what I’m interested in. It’s been that way from the beginning.”
His 2012 schedule includes three world tours and four new albums.
Corea, an 18-time Grammy winner, goes back so far that he played with the legendary Cab Calloway.
“I was just a teenager, but I had an amazing opportunity to play with him,” Corea said. “I was just 15, and I was called to play with Cab’s band for a week at Boston’s Mayfair Hotel. It was huge for me. Daunting, but incredible. He was very nice. The seeds were planted after playing with Cab. This is what I had to do.”
Just a few years after playing with Calloway, Corea was an integral part of Miles Davis’ formidable band.
“I was a jazz purist, and then I played with Miles,” Corea said. “That opened up the way I thought. I noticed rock bands and their energy for the first time. Miles was wise enough to tap into the young energy. That was a transitional period for jazz. The world of fusion and jazz-rock was arriving, and it was so exciting. Fans wouldn’t be sitting anymore. They were caught up with the emotion of the music, and they stood.”
Corea, who played on Davis’ seminal “Bitches Brew” release, was like a sponge as he observed the experience with Davis. His innate ability and the impact of his surroundings helped him produce such jazz classics as “Windows,” “La Fiesta” and “Spain.”
“I made the most of my time with Miles and with so many other very talented artists,” Corea said. “I learned and had a great deal of fun throughout my career.”
Contributing: Lori O’Toole Buselt of The Eagle