Bruce Ricker’s most recent film, directing/producing along with Clint Eastwood as Executive Producer, is a feature documentary, JOHNNY MERCER: THE DREAM’S ON ME starring JAMIE CULLUM, JOHN WILLIAMS, AUDRA McDONALD, MAUDE MAGGART, BLAKE EDWARDS, ANDRE PREVIN, ALAN BERGMAN, MICHAEL FEINSTEIN, DR. JOHN, JULIE ANDREWS, and TONY BENNETT that aired on November 4, 2009 on Turner Classic Movies to coincide with the 100th celebration of Mercer’s birth. The documentary was released on Warner Home Video on December 8, 2009. The Mercer documentary aired on the BBC on April 4, 2010 in the spring of 2010.
The next film in the works is DAVE BRUBECK: IN HIS OWN SWEET WAY. Post-Production begins in the Spring of 2010. The airdate is December 6, 2010 on Turner Classic Movies and the BBC to celebrate Dave’s 90th birthday. Clint Eastwood is the Executive Producer and the editors are Joel Cox and Gary Roach.
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 BIG JOE TURNER.
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. Attorney.
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 in 1979.
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 Clint Eastwood as Executive 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 Village 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)
Twenty years later, Ricker has accumulated a body of work that includes:
CLINT EASTWOOD PRESENTS- JOHNNY MERCER: THE DREAM’S ON ME- Documentary (20090 Director/Producer-For Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video
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 Producer
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. Clint Eastwood-Director Soundtrack- Coordinating Producer-Warner Bros. Records
MUSIC FOR THE MOVIES OF CLINT EASTWOOD (2000) Executive Producer 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 Bros. Records
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (1995) Music Consultant-Warner Bros.
THELONIOUS MONK STRAIGHT NO CHASER (1988) Producer 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
Materials generated from the various projects noted above have been accepted by the Harvard Film Archive as the Bruce Ricker Collection.
Other Rhapsody projects are Jazz Legends, BILL CHARLAP, GEORGE WEIN, NESUHI ERTEGUN, and MAX GORDON / The Village Vanguard, Literary figures BRENDAN GILL, The New Yorker & JAMES LAUGHLIN, New Directions, and ELEANOR DUCKWORTH, Harvard University Educator.