(Oscar nominated and shortlisted documentaries.)
Al Hicks, 2014, 84 min
Shot over the course of five years by first time filmmaker Al Hicks, Keep on Keepin' On depicts a 23-year-old, blind piano prodigy, Justin Kauflin, and music legend and teacher Clark Terry, 89. After a life spent working with and teaching the most totemic figures in jazz history, Terry continues to attract and cultivate budding talents. Keep on Keepin' On highlights Terry’s friendship with the preternaturally gifted Justin Kauflin, who suffers from debilitating stage fright. Not long after Kauflin is invited to compete in an elite Jazz competition, Terry’s health takes a turn for the worse. As the clock ticks, we see two friends confront the toughest challenges of their lives. Terry, now 93, was Quincy Jones’ first teacher, and mentor to Miles Davis. He is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie’s and Duke Ellington’s bands. In the ‘60s Terry broke the color barrier as the first African-American staff musician at NBC – on The Tonight Show.
Kauflin’s work on the film’s score with composer Dave Grusin sets the tone for a story covering decades. Keep on Keepin' On is a film crafted with great affection by Hicks – another former student of Terry’s – a grace note for his teacher, infused with soulfulness and serendipity. Paula DuPre’ Pesmen (behind the Academy Award winning The Cove and the Oscar nominated Chasing Ice) produced the film with seven time Academy Award nominee Quincy Jones who also counts Terry as his mentor. Jones came on board as producer after walking into the film as one of its subjects, discovering Justin’s talent purely by chance during a visit at Clark’s home. Shortlisted for the 2015 Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.
Skype Q&A with director Al Hicks and producer Paula DuPre' Pesmen.