Filmmaker Bruce Ricker, who made a series of critically lauded documentaries on jazz, died Friday in Cambridge, Mass., of pneumonia. He was 68.
Ricker’s first film, 1979’s “The Last of the Blue Devils,” about Kansas City jazzmen, featured Count Basie, among others, and led to his relationship with Clint Eastwood, who first saw the docu while doing research for his Charlie Parker biopic “Bird.”
Eastwood worked to provide the film with wider distribution, and Ricker and Eastwood collaborated on director Charlotte Zwerin’s documentary “Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser” (1988), with the former as producer and the latter as exec producer.
Eastwood was later producer or exec producer on several Ricker docus for TV, including “Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends” (2007), which aired on PBS; “Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s on Me” (2009), which aired on PBS; and “Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way” (2010), which also aired on TCM.
Ricker served as music consultant on Eastwood pics “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995) and “Mystic River” (2003). He also produced and directed the documentaries “Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows” (2000), which appeared on PBS’ “American Masters,” and “Eastwood After Hours: Live at Carnegie Hall” (1997).
His other directing efforts include the 2005 TCM docu “Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That.”
Bruce Thomas Ricker was born on Staten Island. While earning a bachelor’s degree in American Studies at City College of New York, he spent time in New York jazz clubs. After graduating from Brooklyn Law School, Ricker taught urban law at the U. of Missouri.
Ricker also ran jazz film distributor Rhapsody Prods.
He is survived by his third wife, Kate Gill; a daughter and a son; his mother; three brothers; and two grandchildren.