Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jazz filmmaker and supporter Bruce Ricker passes

Jazz and film fans will be saddened to learn that Bruce Ricker has passed away.

As Steve Paul reports in the Kansas City Star, Ricker died after a long bout of pneumonia.

Ricker's many fine films as director and/or producer include Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way (2010), Johnny Mercer: The Dream's on Me (2009), Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends (2007), Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (2000), The Last of the Blue Devils (1979) on Kansas City jazz, an American Masters presentation about Clint Eastwood (who has made a few jazz films himself, including Bird), and a documentary about Jim Hall (1998).

I first became aware of Ricker's name in 2008, when he chewed me out rather mildly for a MinnPost article on the paucity of jazz films. That led to a connection with Kevin Barnes at KBEM, who was starting a jazz film series called REEL Jazz. And that led to a special showing of four films from the Bruce Ricker jazz film collection in 2009, and subsequent showings of Tony Bennett and Thelonious Monk in 2010. Kevin has said that Bruce was very generous about sharing his films.

"The jazz community--musicians, record companies, club owners, and critics--should present an evening tribute to jazz film maker Bruce Ricker." Nat Hentoff wrote those words in 1999. Maybe now it will happen.

Rhapsody Productions, Ricker's website.

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