06/09/11 By Nona Lenore Finnbogason
Jazz Film Maker, Bruce Ricker's Passing on May 13, 2011
Bruce's Second Wife, Nona Lenore Honour's His Life
I met Bruce Ricker at an afternoon jam session with musicians Ed Toller, Arny Young and Rich Hill playing in downtown Kansas City when I was twenty years old.
He sent me a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" telling me it was time to start my literary education and would I like to have a date. Inside the cover he wrote "the future lies in South America". An extremely interesting and complex guy; even when he did mumble at lightening speed; what he said was usually important.
He had finished teaching a program at the university and was practicing law and wanting to work in film when we met.
We began living together in 1974 and man! did I get a great literary education as well as an introduction to the best music in the world. Bruce had an astounding library and record collection. We married in a civil ceremony in 1975 in Kansas City on April Fools Day.
Bruce's dream was to make jazz films and he put a very promising law career on hold to do just that. I got two waitressing jobs so that he could focus on the film he wanted to make, " The Last of the Blue Devils".
I was a very lucky young lady indeed, as I worked as a production assistant on Bruce's first film and was able to meet those amazing masters at such a young age, being offered a sip from Big Joe Turner's whiskey bottle.
I think it took me another twenty years to assimilate and appreciate all that I learned at that time. We spent many nights, until dawn at the musicians union hall in KCMO, listening to the talented people who played there after hours, headed up and overseen by Ernie, one of the stars and last surviving member of the "Blue Devils Band".
Bruce had persistence and a vision he never let go of. His contribution to documenting jazz , when no one else was that interested, was courageous and visionary to say the least; especially because a lot of those artists began to pass away not long after the film was made.
Believe me, it was hard to find money to make an independent jazz documentary at that time and probably still is. Thank God for Clint Eastwood and his love of jazz.
I was shocked and saddened last night while watching the Dave Brubeck film directed by Bruce on TCM, when the host announced that Bruce had passed away last month, in May.
My condolences and best wishes go to his family. It just seems too young to go.
I last spoke to Bruce in 2005 when I was planning on taking my twenty year old daughter, Carmen, who is a beautiful musician on piano and guitar and loves jazz, to NYC. I was asking him to recommend a few spots for me to take her for great music. He was kind and encouraging, offering his apartment on Charlton St. to us if he wasn't needing it for his family when we decided to come.
He told me of his marriage to a wonderful woman named Kate and that they had or were adopting a little girl. I was so happy for him and my heart goes out to them for their loss.
Several years before this we had spoken and I told him about my daughter and her piano. He promptly sent a bunch of jazz videos and classic movies to her. She used to go to sleep as a kid listening to Thelonius Monk or Jay McShann playing on head phones.
I am so grateful that the beginning of my adult life was spent with Bruce Ricker. He basically started me on the road to my education about life, music, literature and culture.
As sad as it is to lose him, I can imagine him in great company now with all those amazing Jazz Musicians welcoming him as he crossed over. His presence on the Earth will be missed.
Nona Lenore Finnbogason
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