When Alan Hicks, a drummer and surfer from Wollongong, Australia, came to New Jersey’s William Paterson University to study jazz in 2002, he couldn’t have predicted he’d be starting the friendship of a lifetime with nonagenarian trumpet legend Clark Terry. He also never would have thought that one day he’d be making the rounds to promote Keep on Keepin’ On, his superb feature-length documentary on Terry, co-produced by Quincy Jones. “I didn’t want to make a movie just about jazz,” says Hicks, 31, just before a weekend of high-profile screenings in New York in late September. “I wanted it to be a broader story.”
Aided by his friend and cinematographer Adam Hart, Hicks chose to make the story about Terry’s relationship with pianist Justin Kauflin, a fellow William Paterson student. The ailing Terry, or C.T. as Kauflin often refers to him, was losing his sight; Kauflin, now 28, had lost his at age 11. Their shared experience of blindness proved a powerful bond, but music even more so.