A new documentary film, Keep on Keepin’ On, profiles jazz great Clark Terry, premiered at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre Friday, October 24. It ran in Nashville through October 30. If you saw the film, you know how great it is. If you didn’t, watch for it on video and be sure to see it.
Shot over the course of five years by first time filmmaker Al Hicks, Keep on Keepin’ On depicts the remarkable story of 93-year-old jazz legend Clark Terry. A living monument to the Golden Era of Jazz, Terry – a mentor to Miles Davis – is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie’s and Duke Ellington’s bands. In the 1960’s, he broke the color barrier as the first African-American staff musician at NBC – on “The Tonight Show”.
Today, after a life spent working with and teaching the most totemic figures in jazz history, Terry continues to attract and cultivate budding talents. Keep on Keepin’ On highlights his friendship with the preternaturally gifted Justin Kauflin, a blind, 23-year-old piano prodigy who suffers from debilitating stage fright. Not long after Kauflin is invited to compete in an elite Jazz competition, Terry’s health takes a turn for the worse. As the clock ticks, we see two friends confront the toughest challenges of their lives.
Kauflin’s work on the film’s score with composer Dave Grusin sets the tone for a story that spans decades, lifetimes and the entire history of modern Jazz, complete with firsthand anecdotes from Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Keep on Keepin’ On is a film crafted with great affection by Hicks – another former student of Terry’s – a grace note for his teacher, infused with soulfulness and serendipity.
Paula DuPre’ Pesmen (behind the Academy Award winning THE COVE and the Oscar nominated CHASING ICE) produced the film with seven time Academy Award nominee Quincy Jones who also counts Terry as his mentor. Quincy came on board as producer after walking into the film as one of its subjects, discovering Justin’s talent purely by chance during a visit at Clark’s home.
“Magnificent! What a story. A profoundly moving, entertaining and life-enhancing experience. If you liked ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ and ’20 Feet From Stardom’ you should line up right now. Not just one of this year’s best documentaries, it is one of the year’s best pictures period.” — Pete Hammond/MovieLine