“Throughout my career, I’ve always been so busy fulfilling commitments to play or produce for other artists or clients… and have always felt that I was being true to my heart musically, even in projects I’ve done for commercial situations. I’ve been quite privileged in that way. But over the past few years, the desire to explore, and express myself entirely within my own personal musical universe has inflamed into a burning passion.” (excerpt from a Bobby Ricketts 2008 press statement)
Copenhagen, Denmark has always been a haven for expatriate American musicians, sax players in particular. The tradition of honing a distinctive sound in the Danish capital that began with jazz legends such as Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon continues with saxophonist Bobby Ricketts.
Bobby started his career in Boston, Mass. Distancing himself musically from the rest of the pack at an early age and winning numerous awards at school-to-school jazz band competitions, Bobby was voted ‘Musician of the Year’ by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association during his senior year in high school. Later that year, he was chosen as one of the finest musicians on the entire eastern coast of the United States, and participated in the All-Eastern Music Conference in Washington, D.C.
The success continued. Bobby was awarded a college scholarship by the Boston Jazz Society, the first-ever recipient of this award. The next stop was Berklee College of Music. Bobby quickly rose to the top, playing in the prestigious Berklee Recording Band under the leadership of gifted bandleader/trumpetist Herb Pomeroy, as well as the International Dues Band, led by master trombonist Phil Wilson. There was ample time to jam with the future big names of jazz, and Bobby crossed paths with players such as Kevin Eubanks, Branford Marsalis, ‘Smitty’ Smith, Tommy Campbell and Victor Bailey, among others.
The international atmosphere of Boston in general, and Berklee College in particular, led to networking opportunities with students representing a myriad of world cultures. What started with tours of Norway and Sweden with fellow Berklee students during school breaks turned into the basis for an unparalleled music career. After completing Berklee’s 4-year degree program as an honor student, Bobby packed his saxophones and a suitcase, then flew to Copenhagen. The rest is Danish music history.
Amongst peers, colleagues, fans, and the industry itself, saxophonist/producer/music director Bobby Ricketts is praised for his consistent, unusually high standards of musical & artistic integrity -and admired for the courage it takes to maintain such standards. On his home court in Scandinavia, Bobby is referred to as a TV-icon, having demonstrated his musical abilities on more major prime time television shows than any musician in Denmark, often performing with some of the biggest names in the global music industry. Being seen as music director for some of the most popular TV shows in Danish entertainment has made Bobby a household name. He is, quite simply, one of the most recognised names and faces of any instrumentalist in the country.
Being seen is one thing, being remembered is something else altogether, and the sensual, earthy, soulful saxophone stylings of Bobby Ricketts leave a lasting impression. In the words of a colleague, “Bobby plays a REAL mean saxophone!”. Playing a mean saxophone has led to studio musician credits on several hundred albums, soundtracks, commercials, and live appearances with such names as Jocelyn Brown, Randy Crawford, Al Jarreau, Kele LeRoc, Suzi Quatro, Vonda Shepard, Curtis Stigers, Toots Thielemanns, Fred Wesley, Roger Whitaker, Bonnie Tyler, Paul Young and many others.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been so busy fulfilling commitments to play or produce for other artists or clients… and have always felt that I was being true to my heart musically, even in projects I’ve done for commercial situations. I’ve been quite privileged in that way. But over the past few years, the desire to explore, and express myself entirely within my own personal musical universe has inflamed into a burning passion.”
In the years that have followed, Bobby Ricketts has successfully made the transition from professional musician to Artist.
“There is an interplay between artistry, emotion, and meaning … we most likely cannot circumvent the idea that an artist, through their artistry, is trying to do or accomplish something with or through the work, even if the work never reaches the public. I would argue that there is power in this urgency of intention, when the work enters the public space. This is the same power that inspires change in society, this power is the spark of revolution, beyond artistry, emotion, and meaning.” – Bobby Ricketts (2016), “Beyond Artistry, Emotion, and Meaning”
“It’s a completely different mindset”, says Bobby. “It’s no longer about being able to play anything and everything that’s put in front of you, it’s about exploring the world around you, who you are in that world, what you have to say about this world in a way that is uniquely yours, how you can contribute, through your actions to making the world a decent place in which to live. And you have to channel all of this through your music and musical instrument. Artistry is a life-long learning process, shared with the audience.”
As a an independent artist, Bobby Ricketts has had the chance to perform for hundreds of thousands, in thirty-plus countries across five continents. He has been appointed an Arts Envoy of the United States Department of State – following in the footsteps of such icons as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington – and has been awarded eight Fulbright-Hayes grants, allowing him to mentor hundreds of young musicians around the world, particularly on the African continent. “It’s a blessing – and humbling, especially to be in a situation where people know who you are before you arrive, and hang on your every word as if it’s truth”, says Bobby. “I tell them, it might be my truth, but not necessarily yours. You have to continue digging for your truth, and I will continue digging for mine – let’s compare notes when we meet again.”
Up next: The Present