Rick Laird: Soft Focus
Rick Laird (bass)
Soft Focus (Timeless SJP 104/112)
Rick Laird (bass),
Tom Grant (piano), Ron Steen (drums).
Composed by Rick Laird.
Recorded: Weesp, Holland, December 1976
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
Bassist Rick Laird had run the gamut by 1976. In his earlier days, he was house bassist at the famous Ronnie Scott's in London. He played with such jazz luminaries as Wes Montgomery, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk and many others. In fact, he is seen in performance on the DVD Wes Montgomery Live in '65, which was released in 2007. In the late '60s, he ventured to the U.S. and joined the Buddy Rich big band. Laird decided to go electric at this time, much to the consternation of Mr. Rich, who wanted him to play upright. Laird switched because he was tired of lugging the bigger acoustic instrument around the country. Buddy, as was his reputation, constantly gave shit to Laird, who quit the band no fewer than six times. Then an old friend from London, guitarist John McLaughlin, invited Rick into the electrified jazz-rock universe of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The rest, as they say, is history.
Three years after the breakup of the original Mahavishnu, Laird led studio sessions that included Tom Grant on piano, Ron Steen on drums and the great saxophonist Joe Henderson. (Henderson does not appear on the reviewed cut.) Soft Focus is non-fusion, straight-ahead jazz. The intriguing title cut starts as a quasi bossa nova. Its character changes as Grant's minor chords enter. Though Laird is playing electric bass, his lines could easily have come from a double bass. There are no efforts at great volume or distortion. His solo is an enjoyable experience full of easy melody. Fans of his Mahavishnu power would probably be surprised by his grace. "Soft Focus" also shows Laird's above-average compositional skills.
Six years later, frustrated by the music business, Laird put down his bass and picked up a camera. Today he is a successful photographer and artist.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky