One of the most uplifting documentaries of 2014 is “Keep On Keepin On”. The film centers on the relationship between jazz legend, Clark Terry, and his blind student Justin Kauflin. It’s a story of two men with a mutual passion for jazz music, and the will to fight to keep pushing forward despite physical challenges.
Clark Terry has over seven decades of playing jazz music under his belt. Starting out playing for Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras, Terry went on to bring up new artists by teaching what jazz with his signature enthusiasm and passion. Some of the household names he taught are Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. His contribution to music and jazz is incomparable.
Justin Kauflin lost his sight by the time he was in middle school. Rather than sulking, he decided to work hard at playing the piano. He eventually began to study under Terry. We find him trying to make it as a musician in New York, and on the eve of an audition for an elite international competition.
Throughout the film the beauty of human relationships and investing in someone continues to be explored. Terry and Kauflin share more than a love for music, but a serious love and respect for each other as they both keep working at their craft regardless of their “disabilities”. While they’re total opposites in age, race, and their background, that’s what makes them so special to watch. Quincy Jones visits his mentor during the film and it’s obvious that the two have a tight bond from their history as titans in their industry. Yet in their moments together they’re just two older men with a deep friendship. The most beautiful relationship is between Terry and his wife. It’s obvious that they’ve been through a lot together and even though they’re both tired (as they state in the film) their love clearly propels them forward while strengthening their bond.
Director Alan Hicks has crafted a heart-warming film by focusing on the human interests of his subjects rather than the fame surrounding them. It’s the difference between who you are versus what you do that Hicks is able to capitalize on and make the film special. “Keep On Keepin On” is an inspiration to not just be great at what you do, but love those around you and create great memories while doing it.