Rick Laird, Bassist at the Forefront of Fusion, Dies at 80

Rick Laird, a bassist who performed a central function in the jazz-rock fusion growth as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, then retired from music to pursue a profession in pictures, died on July four at a hospice facility in New City, N.Y. He was 80.

His daughter, Sophie Rose Laird, stated the trigger was lung most cancers.

The guitarist John McLaughlin known as Mr. Laird in 1971 with an invite to affix a bunch he was forming, whose aim could be to unite the jazz-rock aesthetic — which Mr. McLaughlin had helped to determine as a member of Miles Davis and Tony Williams’s earliest electrical bands — with Indian classical music and European experimentalism.

The new ensemble, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which additionally featured the drummer Billy Cobham, the keyboardist Jan Hammer and the violinist Jerry Goodman, grew to become one of the hottest instrumental bands of its time. It launched a pair of studio albums now considered classics for Columbia Records, “The Inner Mounting Flame” (1971) and “Birds of Fire” (1973), and one reside album, “Between Nothingness & Eternity” (1973).

Mr. Laird had already begun to show himself in the jazz world as a promising upright bassist, however with Mahavishnu he switched to taking part in electrical solely. The group ranged from simmering interaction over odd time signatures to thrashing, high-altitude improvisation. It was all depending on Mr. Laird’s regular hand, and on his knack for balancing energy with restraint.

“Someone had to say one” — that’s, clarify the place every measure started — “and that was me,” Mr. Laird stated in a 1999 interview with Bass Player journal.

On the day of Mr. Laird’s dying, Mr. Cobham posted a tribute on Facebook calling him “the most dependable person in that band.” Mr. Laird, he stated, “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!”

All of Mr. McLaughlin’s bandmates left Mahavishnu in the mid-1970s amid disagreements over cash, artistic management and the function of faith in the group. (Mr. McLaughlin was a loyal follower of the religious chief Sri Chinmoy and needed the band to specific his teachings instantly.) He would proceed the band for years, utilizing completely different lineups.

Mr. Laird spent the relaxation of the decade as a bassist-for-hire with some of the most esteemed names in jazz, touring the United States and the world with the saxophonists Joe Henderson and Stan Getz, amongst others. In the late 1970s he spent a quick stint in a band led by the keyboardist Chick Corea.

Mr. Laird launched one album of his personal, “Soft Focus,” recorded in 1976, which additionally featured Mr. Henderson.

But in 1982, fearing musician’s life-style would show too unstable as he grew older, Mr. Laird embraced his different ardour: pictures. He had purchased some cameras and tools on a tour of Japan and he began doing picture shoots for fellow musicians. He quickly made taking photos his full-time job, taking pictures portraits for regulation companies and doing inventory pictures for companies.

But he additionally composed and recorded continuously all through his retirement, though these tasks haven’t been formally launched.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Laird is survived by his sister, Tanya Laird; his brother, David; and his companion, Jane Meryll. His two marriages resulted in divorce.

Mr. Laird in 1967. He had begun to show himself in the jazz world as a promising upright bassist earlier than becoming a member of Mahavishnu and switching to electrical.Credit…through Sophie Laird

Richard Quentin Laird was born in Dublin on Feb. 5, 1941. His father, William Desmond Laird, a constructing contractor, was Protestant, and his mom, Margaret Muriel (Le Gear) Laird, a homemaker, was Roman Catholic; though neither was significantly spiritual, their households weren’t on talking phrases. Eventually, the couple break up up.

At 16, Rick was despatched to reside — with out both father or mother — on a sheep farm in New Zealand. Hoping to pursue a profession in music, he ultimately moved to Sydney, Australia, the place he gained a popularity on the jazz scene earlier than shifting to London.

He grew to become the home bassist at Ronnie Scott’s, a prime jazz membership that usually hosted musicians on worldwide excursions. There he met a variety of the world’s most well-known jazz expertise and performed with the likes of the guitarist Wes Montgomery and the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Engagements with the saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Ben Webster led to albums with them.

It was a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston that first introduced Mr. Laird to the United States, in 1966. He moved to Los Angeles with out graduating and joined the drummer Buddy Rich’s band for a 12 months earlier than relocating to New York. In the early 2000s, he moved to New City, simply north of New York City, the place he lived till his dying.

In an interview for Guitar Player journal in 1980, Mr. Laird mirrored on a profession as a aspect musician.

“If you play a supportive role, instead of soloing constantly, the chances of becoming well known by the average audience are very slim,” he stated. “The extra I’ve refined my abilities, the much less I get observed.

“It’s a paradox, however I don’t thoughts. I don’t suppose I want my ego stroked like that.”