Film Review: KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (Directed by Alan Hicks; Produced by Quincy Jones)

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by Jason Rohrer on September 14, 2014

in Film


If you’re not into watching groundbreaking, legendary, nearly century-old jazz musicians tenderly calling each other “motherfucker” while helping to train the next generation of high-end artists, this may not be the documentary for you. If on the other hand you are a fan of inspirational films that manage not to cloy while dragging your emotions down valleys and up mountains with life-and-death true stories, you will be very glad to see Australian drummer and surfer Alan Hicks’s first movie.

Justin Kauflin and Clark Terry in KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

Centered on 90-something trumpeter Clark Terry, his dramatic health issues, and his passionate mentoring of young, blind pianist Justin Kauflin, this film moves easily between heartfelt talking heads (Bill Cosby, Arturo Sandoval, the late Mulgrew Miller), well-chosen archival footage (Terry played with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen…), and a great many handheld, you-are-there moments (captured by first-time feature cinematographer Adam Hart).

Justin Kauflin and Clark Terry in KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON.

When Terry’s first student, multiple Grammy winner Quincy Jones (also a producer of this film, and no spring chicken himself) comes to visit what looks like Terry’s deathbed, their sixty years of rapport (“Are your lips greasy?”) cut through any potential sentimentality like a bebop lick. With oxygen tubes up his nose, on the verge of losing his legs to diabetes, Terry rasps an inexhaustible supply of profane, upbeat aphorisms that would be cliches if he, and this picture, weren’t so goddamn sincere. Director Hicks was a student of Terry’s, too, and his love for his subject has produced a generous portrait-as-tribute. If we never find out anything unsavory or remotely unflattering about Terry, neither do we wish to.

Justin Kauflin in KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

photos courtesy of RADiUS-TWC

Keep on Keepin’ On
Absolute Clay Productions, RADiUS-TWC
2014 | 86 min | U.S.A.
begins in limited release:
September 19, 2014 in Los Angeles
October 3, 2014 in New York
for more info visit

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