Remembering Rick Laird

February 05, 1941 – July 04, 2021


A tribute to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s bassist

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Rick Laird passed away on July 4, 2021, at the age of 80.

He was born in Dublin, Ireland on Feb. 5, 1941, to a musical family.

Laird played the piano and the ukulele when he was just three, started taking lessons on guitar and piano two years later, switching to the bass and discovering jazz when he was 16.

He moved to Sydney, Australia for two years where he was part of the jazz scene, relocating to England in 1962, toured with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and also worked with Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Brian Auger.

As the house bassist at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for several years, he played with many visiting Americans including Wes Montgomery, Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins.

Laird moved to the US to attend Berklee in 1966, switching to the electric bass in 1968.

He gained his greatest fame as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra during 1971-73.

After the group broke up, he worked in New York, toured with Stan Getz and Chick Corea (1978), recorded with Richie Cole, Eddie Jefferson, Eddie Daniels, Vic Juris, and Eric Kloss, led one album, and then retired from performing music in 1982 to become a photographer and a bass teacher.

Here is Rick Laird supporting and pushing the Mahavisnu Orchestra (with guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, and drummer Billy Cobham) in 1972 on “Noonward Race.”

-Scott Yanow

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