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Love Story: Keep On Keepin’ On

A new Clark Terry documentary tells a sweet, inspiring tale

Justin Kauflin (l.) and Clark Terry (photo courtesy of Radius-TWC)

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.

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Originally Published

David R. Adler

David R. Adler writes about jazz and assorted topics. His work has appeared in JazzTimes, NPR Music, WBGO.org, The Philadelphia InquirerThe Village Voice, DownBeat, Time Out New York, and many other publications. From 2010-2017 he taught jazz history at the Aaron Copland School of Music (Queens College-CUNY). In summer 2017, after 30 years in New York (apart from two in Philadelphia), David relocated with his family to Athens, Georgia. There he continues to write about music and perform solo as a guitarist/vocalist.