On September 12, 2007, TONY BENNETT: THE MUSIC
NEVER ENDS ran on national television as an AMERICAN MASTERS documentary
on PBS. This was the fourth documentary directed and/or produced by
Bruce Ricker that has such wide distribution in the past seven years.
These documentaries are wide ranging studies in American culture and
features such artists as CLINT EASTWOOD, MERYL STREEP, GENE HACKMAN,
MORGAN FREEMAN, RAY CHARLES, THELONIOUS MONK, PROFESSOR LONGHAIR, DUKE
ELLINGTON, COUNT BASIE, DAVE BRUBECK, BUDD BOETTICHER, JOHN WAYNE,
QUENTIN TARANTINO, RANDOLPH SCOTT, ED HARRIS, MEL BROOKS, ANTHONY
HOPKINS, ALEC BALDWIN, FRED ASTAIRE, FRANK SINATRA, HARRY BELAFONTE,
COLE PORTER, and HANK WILLIAMS.
Bruce Ricker was born on October 10, 1942 in
Staten Island, New York. During his early years, Ricker went from
listening to Martin Bloch, The Make Believe Ball Room to collecting 45s
of the heralded Singing Groups such as the Spaniels. At a teenager, he
was at the Alan Freed shows and came upon the likes of Bo Diddley.He
attended City College of New York and was spending his time at Birdland,
the Five Spot and the Half-Note discovering the genius of Tito Puente,
John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Concerts included Dave Brubeck and
the Modern Jazz Quartet. Thinking that he wanted to write the Great
American novel, Ricker formulated a study plan that resulted in one of
the first degrees in American Studies and graduated with a B.A. in 1965.
While attending City College, he was also employed as a police cadet for
the New York City Police Department for three years. (The present Police
Commissioner, Raymond Lynch also served in a similar position during
this time period.)
Upon graduation, he worked at General Artists
Corporation in 1965 as a talent agent trainee but soon decided that he
wanted to be a lawyer. Switching jobs, he worked as a caseworker for the
Social Services of the City of New York and attended Brooklyn Law School
at night. He received a J.D. in 1970. During this time period, he also
worked on a literary magazine, THE PROVINCETOWN REVIEW under the
guidance of the late Seymour Krim and apprenticed himself in the worlds
of Norman Mailer and Willem de Kooning.
Ricker then decided to attend the University of
Missouri- Kansas City to earn a Graduate Law Degree in Urban Studies and
received a teaching fellowship at the law school. After the first
post-graduate year he realized that he should start practicing law. He
passed the New York and Missouri Bar exams and began in private practice
in the fall of 1971 in Kansas City, with Russell Millin, an ex-U.S.
In 1973/1974, he discovered that Jay McShann, the
great jazz legend was residing in Kansas City. With McShann’s approval
and guidance and the financial help from Shakespearean scholar, Norma J.
Fisk, Ricker began shooting footage in 1974 and 1975 that became the
basis of the documentary, THE LAST OF THE BLUE DEVILS, The KANSAS CITY
JAZZ STORY. At that moment, (1975), having difficulty raising funds for
completing the movie in Kansas City, Ricker moved back to New York City,
was admitted to the New York Bar and eventually finished the BLUE DEVILS
THE LAST OF THE BLUE DEVILS was a critical
success, praised by Roger Ebert et al, and shown in every major film
festival in 1979/80. In 1980, he was fortunate to meet Christian
Blackwood, who had shot rare footage of Thelonious Monk in 1967/68.
Joining forces with Charlotte Zwerin, (co- director of GIMME SHELTER)
they embarked on a new documentary, THELONIOUS MONK: STRAIGHT NO CHASER.
This documentary was finally completed in 1988 with the help of
Eastwood as Exec producer.
|In 1982, Ricker started Rhapsody Films,
which would specialize in the making and distribution of jazz and blues
films. Eventually, with the advent of the home video market, it would
soon release documentaries featuring, BILL EVANS, SUN RA, CHARLES MINGUS,
COLEMAN HAWKINS, et al. He also programmed a Jazz Film Series as part of
the Greenwich Jazz Festival for many years.
In 1987, Ricker began his relationship with Clint
Eastwood. Eastwood came upon THE LAST OF THE BLUE DEVILS in his research
for his feature film, BIRD. Apart from finding the financing for the
MONK film through Warner Bros., he also arranged for Warner Bros. to
release the BLUE DEVILS in France. (In 2007, it was revived for a new
theatrical run in Paris)
Bruce Ricker, Benford Standley and Clint Eastwood
photo by Adam Hood
Clint Eastwood, Joshua Redbone, Lennie
Niehause and Bruce Ricker
photo by Hank O'Neal
|Twenty years later, Ricker and
Eastwood have accumulated a body of work that includes:
CLINT EASTWOOD PRESENTS -TONY BENNETT: THE MUSIC
NEVER ENDS- Documentary (2007) Director/Producer-for NETFLIX/American
Masters-PBS/Warner Home Video
BUDD BOETTICHER: “ A MAN CAN DO THAT “ (2005)
Director/Producer- Documentary about movie director, Budd Boetticher for
Turner Classic Movies and Paramount Home Video-Clint Eastwood- Executive
CLINT EASTWOOD’S PIANO BLUES (2003) Producer- PBS
and Sony Home Video-PIANO BLUES Soundtrack- Sony Records-Producer,
MYSTIC RIVER- (2003) Music Consultant-Warner Bros.
Soundtrack- Coordinating Producer-Warner Bros.
CLINT EASTWOOD: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2000)
American Masters (PBS) and Warner Home Video,
MUSIC FOR THE MOVIES OF CLINT EASTWOOD (2000)
Warner Bros. Records,
JIM HALL: A LIFE IN PROGRESS (1998)
Director/Producer- Documentary about jazz guitarist, Jim Hall. Rhapsody
Films Home Video
EASTWOOD: AFTER HOURS-LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL (1997)
Director/Producer- Warner Bros. TV and Home Video-Soundtrack-Producer/Warner
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (1995) Music
THELONIOUS MONK STRAIGHT NO CHASER (1988)
Warner Bros. Home Video
THE LAST OF THE BLUE DEVILS- THE KANSAS CITY JAZZ
STORY (1979) Director/Producer- Count Basie, Big Joe Turner and Jay
McShann –Kino on Video
Having just finished and released the TONY BENNETT
documentary, Ricker and Eastwood are working on the following
documentaries in various stages of development: DAVE BRUBECK: “In His
Own Sweet Way” (now in production), and a documentary celebrating the
life and work of FRED ASTAIRE.
Other Rhapsody projects are Jazz Legends, BILL
CHARLAP, GEORGE WEIN, NESUHI ERTEGUN, and MAX GORDON and The Village
Vanguard, Literary figures BRENDAN GILL, The New Yorker & JAMES
LAUGHLIN, New Directions, and ELEANOR DUCKWORTH, Harvard University
Bruce Ricker lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and
New York City with his wife Kate Gill and his daughter, Emma.