In Memoriam: Rick Laird
Sad news to report today: jazz bassist and Mahavishnu Orchestra member Rick Laird has passed away. He was 80 years old. Tributes have been pouring in from musicians around the world, including his former bandmate Billy Cobham.
“To all who were close to the [Mahavishnu Orchestra] you knew that the most dependable person in that band was the bass player,” he wrote on Facebook. “He played what was necessary to keep the rest of us from going off our musical rails. He was my rock and allowed me to play and explore musical regions that I would not have been able to navigate without him having my back! Rick Laird bid this world goodbye at sun up this morning. Already I miss his likeness and voice that was featured in the powerful quietness and authority he projected on and off stage. The body is going but the persona will remain as an influence on whatever I play for the rest of my days. I miss him already.”
Laird was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1941. He took piano and guitar as a child. He began playing jazz and switching to double bass after moving to New Zealand with his father at just 16 years old. He would then move to Australia where he began playing with larger names in jazz.
In 1962, he moved to England and became the house bassist for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, where he backed touring artists like Wes Montgomery, Sonny Stitt, and more.
Another move brought him to Boston, Massachusetts where he would study at Berklee College of Music. In 1971 he was recruited by guitarist John McLaughlin to join his new jazz fusion group, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Laird provided the rock-solid foundation for the band on the albums The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire before the lineup broke up in 1973.
He would spend the rest of the ’70s touring and recording with artists like Stan Getz, Eddie Daniels, Eddie Jefferson, and Chick Corea. He released one solo album, entitled Soft Focus, in 1979.
While he continued to teach and write instructional books, Laird turned to photography later in life and became a renowned jazz photographer in New York City.
Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Rick Laird.