Keep on Keepin’ On
Clark Terry is more than just a Life Time Award Grammy-winner and jazz trumpet legend: he is a remarkable man and formidable mentor in life and music – an inspiration to us all. That is what first time director, Alan Hicks, wants us to know.
Hicks spent five years documenting Terry’s life and relationship with blind piano prodigy, Justin Kauflin, avoiding a traditional biographical documentary. Focusing on the extraordinary bond between Terry and Kauflin, the 70 years between them bridged by their disabilities and love for jazz, Hicks brings to the forefront Terry’s gentle soul, boundless positivity and passion for music. Despite Terry (or CT as his friends call him) befalling tragic consequences of his diabetic disease, he never gives up on music or his protégé – and Kauflin learns how to nurture his talent and overcome his shortfalls under CT’s guiding hand. “Keep on keepin’ on,” CT drawls, encouraging Kauflin, who battles with a lack of confidence and stage fright. Poignantly, Kauflin displays unbounded positivity in coping with his blindness, inspiring CT to deal with his own fading sight and eventual loss of limbs.
Of course Hicks educates us in CT’s incredible journey to greatness: poor and inspired by local trumpeters, he constructed his own trumpet from scraps. Bothered by the din of a makeshift instrument, his neighbours scrapped together $12.50 to purchase CT his first real trumpet. And, as the saying goes, a legend was born.
CT went on to dominate jazz music, stamping it with a distinctive sound that is recognisable as being his alone. And having mentored Quincy Jones and thousands of others who, in turn, have mentored thousands more, we are told that CT has influenced almost every jazz talent. Yet he never became the household name that was apportioned to Duke Ellington and Count Basie, both of whom he played with. Perhaps he should have been and Hicks seems to say this, but it is not the focus. Although it would have been a testament to explore how CT shaped the jazz circuit, we learn more about the greatness and uniqueness of his spirit than the musical legend.
A touching and inspiring documentary that shows us the boy earmarked for great musicianship and the man who spent his life loving jazz and nurturing that ardour in other young talent. His brilliance will live on through the talent he fosters.
Keep on Keepin’ On does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Keep on Keeping On here: