Two remarkable men—one young, one old—fuel each other’s
spirits in the beautiful documentary Keep
On Keepin’ On. When we meet them, Justin Kauflin is a teenage jazz piano
prodigy who hasn’t let blindness deter him from pursuing his love of music,
while jazz trumpet great Clark Terry is in his late 80s and in declining health.
Despite the age difference, these musicians form an incredible bond that
sustains them both through difficult times.
Australian-born drummer Alan Hicks began documenting this
friendship in 2009, and has followed Kauflin and Terry’s fate and fortunes
(together and apart) for the last five years. The resulting film is an
unusually intimate portrait of youth, old age, ambition, defeat, and optimism,
as embodied by this unusual pair and the people in their orbit (including
Terry’s devoted wife and Kauflin’s tireless mother).
The story behind the film is almost as good as the film
itself, and the two paths intersect when Clark Terry’s protégé and student,
Quincy Jones, shows up on his doorstep in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and becomes part
of the documentary.
I’d rather not disclose more about the film because I don’t
want to deny anyone the pleasure of discovering it and savoring its many
pleasures. I was predisposed to liking Keep
on Keepin’ On because I’ve been a Clark Terry fan since I was a kid, but
this isn’t a film about jazz: it’s about two extraordinary people who happen to
share a love of the music. That passion unites them, and makes their story