Rick Laird

To my ears, the mighty Mahavishnu Orchestra sounded best when they cut back on the shredding and settled into the deep rooted grooves created by the groundbreaking ensemble’s most “traditional” jazz musician – bassist Rick Laird. Laird’s fluid lines, warm tone, and tuneful solo break on “One Word” from the classic Birds of Fire album exemplified fusion at its finest – melding rock and jazz into a coherent, mind expanding listening experience – as opposed to a serving as a showy platform to display instrumental dexterity.

The Dublin-born Laird excelled as the house bassist for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London in the early 1960s, toured with Stan Getz and Chick Corea, and waxed a gem of a solo album entitled Soft Focus featuring Joe Henderson.

Though Ralphe Armstrong and Jonas Hellborg took over the bass chair on subsequent incarnations of what was essentially John McLauglin’s vehicle, Laird was the most supportive and intuitive – and stuck closest to Miles’ credo of “directions in music” which was supposedly McLauglin’s vision all along.