Correspondence: On Bruce Ricker

Chris Brubeck writes about the death of jazz film producer and director Bruce Ricker:

The entire Brubeck family shares in the sorrow and shock of Bruce’s death. We were aware of his hospitalization but felt comforted that modern medicine would triumph as usual. This time it didn’t and I think Bruce Ricker’s passing is a huge loss for his family, friends and also for the entire jazz community. Bruce had incredibly unique passions and talents which he poured into his film projects. There are thousands of great musicians in the jazz world but very few filmmakers who have the passion, vision, knowledge and discipline to create moving and exciting documentaries.

Bruce was so respectful of our family and went to great lengths to try to capture the dynamics and rhythms of our clan. When I saw the film for the first and only time, I was with my father and the rest of my family on Dave’s 90th birthday. We watched it on television when it was broadcast across America. I expected a lot of nuts and bolts about Dave’s storied career but I was surprised because the overall tone of the film was of a spiritual nature. Bruce opened the film with a poem by my brother Michael, who had passed away recently; he closed it with footage of our family climbing a wooded hill into the light. This reflected what he felt, that Dave’s unusual life took us all on a family journey.

Bruce really deeply understood the unsung heroine of Dave’s career, our mother Iola Brubeck. It was a beautiful , emotional (and with all the footage of us as kids when we are now hovering in the 60ish zone) a surreal experience to watch the movie. In fact I wrote to Bruce that I could only watch it once, it was an uplifting yet “heavy” experience. I am so glad that I wrote to him so he knew the depths of my appreciation for what he accomplished. Now, with Bruce’s passing, and knowing this was the last film he will complete, I have yet another reason why it will take some time before I can watch his “art” again. He was a very perceptive man who understood the music and the people who created it. His films about jazz will enlighten and inspire generations of jazz musicians and fans in the coming years. Perhaps even more importantly, his insightful films will lead non-jazz fans to explore this wonderful music.

(Photo of Chris and Iola Brubeck by Dr. Jazz)

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Frank Roellinger says

    Thank you so much for posting this, and especially thanks to Chris for writing it. Dave Brubeck’s music has been in my blood for more than 50 years and I have always thought that it is very spiritual. There was enough revealed about Iola in interviews and liner notes over the years that I knew that she was an essential part of Dave’s success. I too enjoyed the film greatly. It included just a snippet of a CBS documentary on the DBQ made in about 1961. I watched part of that on TV at the time and managed to record about half of the audio portion on reel-to-reel tape, which is still playable. It was all too short, but a gem nonetheless. I sure would like to see the whole thing. (If anyone with access happens to read this, please release it!) I suppose that I will reveal a great deal of ignorance now, but what other jazz films did Bruce create?