Jazz composer and keyboardist Chick Corea has died, according to a statement posted on his social media platforms. The prolific artist said he died of a “rare form of cancer that was only recently discovered”. He was 79 years old.

Corea was born Armando Anthony Corea in Massachusetts in 1941 and grew up in a musical household. His father was a professional trumpeter and he learned to play the piano at an early age. Corea attended Columbia University for a brief period in the late 1950s before moving to Juilliard. In the 1960s he recorded with figures such as Mongo Santamaria, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie and appeared on his 1968 debut album, Tones for Joan’s Boans.

In the same year, Corea replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’ band in a kind of reversal of fate: Hancock replaced Corea in Mongo Santamaria’s band as early as 1962. While in Davis’ band, Corea played on landmark albums including In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live at the Fillmore East and Live-Evil set the stage for jazz fusion to blossom in the 1970s.

Corea left Davis and his group in 1970 to pursue his jazz-fusion vision, first with the short-lived quartet Circle and then with Return to Forever, a jazz-rock group with bassist Stanley Clarke, for the entire decade a changing line-up of players occurred. He won his first Grammy – Best Jazz Instrumental Performance – for the title track of Return to Forever’s 1975 album No Mystery.

Corea won a total of 23 Grammys over the course of his decades of career, making him the most successful jazz artist of all time. His last win was last year for Best Latin Jazz Album, for Antidote, an album with the Spanish Heart Band.