Rudy Giscombe

photo Collage by rick carter

A message to you, Rudy

Now open your eyes and smile beautifully. [click/flash] Yes.

Recite that line in your head and imagine the broad smile opening up inside the salt-and-pepper beard of local photographer and sax-man Rudy Giscombe’s kind face as he snaps the photo [click/flash] and finishes the line with a breathless, “Yes.” It’s the “yes” that gets me. In the week that’s passed since Rudy died, after a long battle with prostate cancer, I’ve rewatched the online artist-profile video that local videographer Bruce Jans (of Green Light Productions) made for the Artoberfest website, and each time it’s those opening lines from Rudy during a photo shoot that stick with me. Hearing all of his words and seeing his face in the video (at has been sad and comforting, but the subtle pleasure that he derives from some unseen person’s smile underlines the spirit of a man beloved in large part for the connection he made with so many through his own heartfelt smile.

At the CAMMIES awards this past spring, the CN&R gave Rudy the Hogan/West/LaPado Lifetime Achievement Award, “In appreciation of his years of rich and spirited contributions to Chico’s music and arts communities.” His son Sunny accepted the award on his behalf, and shared with everyone that Rudy was in the hospital. It was a powerful moment to witness as nearly every person in attendance, young and old, had some connection to Rudy, and onstage you could feel the wave of emotions as Sunny spoke.

Drummer Casey Schmidt, one of the most recent of Rudy’s many musical collaborators, was there, and he sent me a note about his friend:

“I remember practicing at Rudy’s house and getting to look through some of his amazing photos and hear his outrageous stories and jokes, which were always followed with that infectious laugh. His advice enriched my life as well as my drumming, and I’ll never forget him urging me to ‘stop thinking and just play.’”

CN&R GreenWays/HealthLines Editor and longtime standup bassist in the Chico jazz scene Christine LaPado added: “Rudy’s passing leaves a hole in the fabric of the local jazz community that can’t really be filled by anyone else,” and it is hard to imagine anyone touching so many so deeply.

I don’t have any personal stories about Rudy to tell. I never shared a meal with the man. Never had my picture taken with or by him. Never played music with him. I haven’t gone to a lot of jazz performances. I never even had a beer with him. But we were definitely friends. I can’t remember how our friendship began, but no matter where or when we’d accidentally interact, we’d share genuine affection for one another—and usually a hearty laugh as well. As the tributes and memories pour out of the community, I get the feeling that he was simply friends with everyone he met. And that friendly, generous and loving spirit magnified through the art of his music and photography is something that he gave to us and will remain in this community now that his body has gone.

Thanks, man.

More from the video:

When they like my work, it confirms: “Hey, you are a good person.” [laughs] And that feels good. I like people to like me, and I like them to like the things that I do. The things that will last longer than me. When I’m dead and gone, my photography will still be here.

As per Rudy’s wishes, there will not be a memorial service. But the community is invited to come out to Sin of Cortez (2290 Esplanade) on Saturday, June 25. The restaurant is holding an informal benefit and will be donating proceeds from the day to Rudy’s wife, Cheryl, to help offset the cost of medical expenses. There will be some photos of Rudy on display and music of his will be playing.

If you would like to help further, donations can be mailed directly to: Cheryl Giscombe, 4368 Ocean Drive, Chico, CA 95973.