“Keep On Keepin’ On” is a 2014 documentary which focuses on the student-teacher relationship between trumpet player, composer and educator Clark Terry, who passed away last year, and Justin Kauflin, who was his student during Terry’s last few years.
Clark Terry, also known as CT, was born in Missouri in 1920. He is one of the most recorded trumpet players in the history of jazz. He started his professional music career when he was 20 years old. He has mastered his style and technique after working with Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and expanded his range of style from swing and bebop to hard bop. Like a majority of jazz musicians who play wind instruments, CT has an incredible “scat singing” talent that listeners cannot get enough of.
This documentary focuses more on the talented musician as a teacher, rather than on his stage performance. We watch the story of the student-teacher and father-son relationship between two friends in this documentary, which concentrates on the relationship between the 89 years old trumpet player, who was teaching at William Paterson University at the time, and the 20 years old blind jazz piano student Justin Kauflin. The shooting of the documentary took five years. The director, Alan Hicks, was a drummer student of Clark Terry’s at Willian Paterson University. He started shooting for the film when he was a member in Terry’s band in the mid-2000s when he was still a student at the university. It is amazing to watch Justin’s excitement and stage fright as he enters “Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition” and to witness how his teacher motivates him by sending him “a pair of lucky socks” for him to wear at the competition. Simple but emotional. It isn’t important whether Justin wins or loses; what is important is the way his teacher believes in him and expresses his confidence in his student. This is a simple way to motivate someone. I think this is what we all need at the end of the day.
An interesting event happens following the competition. Clark Terry introduces Justin, probably his last student, to Quincy Jones, who was his first student. The scenes which show musicians gathering at Terry’s house when he is having difficulty moving around are very beautiful and sincere. Justin Kauflin is mature and clever for his age, this probably stems from the hardships he has faced in his life. His meeting with Quincy Jones is a big step in his career, and he joins Jones’ band as his pianist.
Justin Kauflin is currently an actively performing musician who both leads and accompanies several bands. His first album “Introducing Justin Kauflin” was released in 2010, and his second album “Dedication” in 2015. You can view and follow both these critically acclaimed albums and the touring details of the musician on his website, www.justinkauflin.com. The details about the documentary can be found on www.keeponkeepinon.com. Keep swingin’!.