Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Keep On Keepin' On Review

Yesterday I went to see the documentary Keep On Keepin' On at The Bloor Cinema in downtown Toronto. The film is about legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and his nurturing of young jazz musicians. While growing up in St. Louis, 12 year old Clark Terry went to jazz clubs to talk to jazz musicians. When they wouldn't help him, he vowed that if he ever became famous, he would devote his life to teaching jazz to young people and encourage them as much as he could. His latest student is 23 year old blind pianist Justin Kauflin. And this film is about Terry encouraging Kauflin despite serious health problems. The film was directed by Australian jazz drummer Alan Hicks who is also a Clark Terry student. And one of the producers is maestro Quincy Jones. But the interesting thing is when Jones was 12 years old, he was the first to be mentored by Terry. And how many musicians has Jones discovered? So even after Terry is gone, his legacy will continue for generations. We see clips of Terry helping a teenaged Terri Lyne Carrington who is now a world renowned jazz drummer. We also see clips of Jones, Herbie Hancock, the late Mulgrew Miller, Diane Reeves and Arturo Sandoval giving their thoughts about Terry. Technically, Kauflin is a talented musician. My observation is that he seems to lack focus and is probably his own worst enemy. He is invited to participate in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in Washington, DC. This is a very important competition that can lead to a record deal. Of course Kauflin is stressing and Terry is trying to help him. But Terry is very sick and can only do so much. Kauflin doesn't do well in the competition. And Terry has to have his legs amputated due to diabetes. He realizes Kauflin needs help that he can't give anymore. So he invites both Kauflin and Jones to his home in Arkansas. He wants Jones to listen to the kid. We also see that Kauflin can perform as he accompanies Dianne Reeves in a club. Jones decides to showcase Kauflin at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It goes well and Jones signs Kauflin to a record deal. And in the final scene, we see Clark Terry mentoring another musician. Though I know jazz fans will enjoy Keep On Keepin' On, you don't have to be a jazz fan to enjoy this human interest story. And you might even buy a Clark Terry CD. A lot of the funding for Keep On Keepin' On was raised through Kickstarter. That's how things are done these days. A friend of mine, KC Marsh, is trying to fund a documentary about his father, legendary sax player Warne Marsh. It's important that jazz history be preserved and I am hopeful that KC makes his film. I certainly want to see it and review it. Check out the trailer for Keep On Keepin' On.

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