Keep On Keepin' On

Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC

“Keep On Keepin’ On”

Clark Terry has been called the greatest trumpet player ever. He played with some of the finest jazz bands in the world, including the Count Basie Small Band and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He was the first black staff musician on television when in the 1960’s he played in the NBC Tonight Show with Johnny Carson band. Not only a great musician having played on over 1,000 albums in his career, Terry made it his life’s work to teach and mentor young musicians, just as Count Basie and Duke Ellington had done for him. Terry mentored such jazz legends as Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, and Dianne Reeves.

“Keep On Keepin’ On” is a documentary highlighting the unique friendship between up-and-coming 26-year-old blind piano player Justin Kauflin and 90-year-old Clark Terry. Both men are about to embark on tough times. Terry is battling diabetes and is trying everything to save his foot from amputation. Justin is about to compete as a semifinalist at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition while realizing that he will have to move back in with his parents. He has been living on his own in New York City with his guide dog but hasn’t gotten enough gigs to stay in his apartment. Both have the loving support of their families; Terry has his beautiful, patient wife, Gwen and Justin has his mom and dad, with mom being his personal chauffeur.

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Keep On Keepin' On

Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC

And while they each have family and in the case of Justin, a loving guide dog named Candy, the core of this film is the friendship of the two musicians. Justin, who lost his eyesight at an early age, became a musician when he could no longer play video games or basketball. Clark first heard the Duke Ellington band play at age ten and was so inspired that he created his own horn out of junk he found in his neighborhood. The homemade instrument made such a racket that his neighbors got together and bought him his first real trumpet. Terry and Justin met when Justin was attending college, and Terry was teaching seminars there. From the first time you see the two of them interacting over how to play a jazz song, you see just how close they are and how their love of music brings them together. Justin light’s up in Clark’s presence, and Clark feeds of off Justin’s enthusiasm. Both have something else in common besides the love of music. Terry is also blind due to his lifelong battle with diabetes.

Keep On Keepin' On

Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC

The film shows some incredible footage of Terry playing some of the greatest jazz compositions with some of the all-stars of the 50’s and 60’s jazz scene. The performances are so magical that even if you aren’t a jazz fan you can’t help, but tap your foot in time with some of the songs. Interspersed throughout the film are interviews that Terry has done throughout his long career giving us insight to his love of music and his infectious positive views on life. There are also interviews with people that have been touched by knowing Terry, including Bill Cosby Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. The love for this wonderful man just comes out through the screen as people practically burst to tell about their love and admiration for the man.

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This is a moving and inspiring film, making it one of the best documentaries of the year. It’s a remarkable film filled with Terry’s wit and wisdom as he mentors Justin to become not only a better musician but also a better person. It’s a movie displaying the love and friendship between two men who, though separated by age, are brought together in an effort to make the world a better place by filling it with joyous music.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

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