Keep On Keepin’ On

Keep On Keepin’ On ★★★★½

True Confession: I wept through this entire movie. Tears of joy mostly. The love that spills off the screen through the entire 85 minutes is unbelievable. Musicians doing what they love. A wife caring for her ailing husband. A student-teacher relationship bonded by a passion for jazz and the music that's bursting to get out of them. Keep On Keepin' On hits all the right..err...notes.
It's a study of the great Clark Terry. 92-year old jazz trumpeter whose career led him to play with Count Basie and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He taught jazz legends, Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. In this film Terry mentors musical students of jazz, asking nothing in return. Just that the torch of his talents get passed down to others.
The movie focuses on his relationship with Justin Kauflin, a 23 year old blind piano prodigy who visits a very sick CT (as he affectionately calls him) at his bedside. Working out riffs on the keyboard as his jazz jedi master coaches him through the notes and syncopations from his hospital bed. I couldn't turn off the tear ducts as I watched both teacher and student deal with their trials in music and life. Mostly because I'm so affected when I see people passionately doing what they were born to be doing.
My one issue came during the closing credits of the film. Quincy Jones's name is listed as producer. It calls into suspect 2 particular scenes in the film where Jones makes an appearance. I started to question the authenticity of the scenes, and if this movie was nothing but a publicity "stunt" to sell the recordings of Justin Kauflin who Quincy Jones is currently working with to produce his record. Fortunately, that question is disproved in the movies bonus features. We learn that Quincy Jones knew nothing of the project until his visit, which is captured in the film. And that him coming on as a producer is not only a chance to bring recognition to his mentor, but helped secure the licensing of the music that is used so prominently throughout the movie. Quincy legitimately fell in the love with Justin's talent (the moment also captured on film) leading him to produce the musician's first record.
There's so much to be gleaned from this documentary even if you aren't a lover of jazz music. Keep On Keepin' On would make a perfect double bill with this year's Oscar-nominated 'Whiplash'. Only the student-teacher relationship is a little more endearing. A Top 5 film of 2014 for me.

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