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Review: The Clark Terry doc 'Keep on Keepin' On' is too much in the present

Jazz great Clark Terry finally gets his mainstream due in the doc "Keep on Keepin' On," though it doesn't spend as much time on his past.

Justin Kaulfin and Clark Terry rock out in "Keep On Keepin' On." Credit: RADiUS-TWC Justin Kaulfin and Clark Terry rock out in "Keep On Keepin' On."
Credit: RADiUS-TWC

'Keep on Keepin’ On'
Director: Alan Hicks
Genre: Documentary
3 (out of 5) Globes

What: Music docs are in vogue right now, and the latest gloms onto Clark Terry, one of many jazz greats whose praise seems to only be sung by the legends. As well as sum up his career, the film spends time with him, now in his 90s and mentoring a young blind pianist, Justin Kauflin.

The lowdown: Terry schooled and inspired the likes of Quincy Jones and Miles Davis, plus played with Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. And yet there’s only a handful of killer stories here. (Though it does feature a killer clip of testimony by Davis, seen soon before his 1991 death.) Director Alan Hicks, himself a drummer, mostly stays in the present day, hanging with a seriously ailing Terry — who’s losing his sight and legs — as he hangs with Kauflin.


That Kauflin actually struggles to achieve success does give a certain spiky shape to this chunk of the film. But their relationship still makes for redundant cinema. It’s touching, of course; Terry seems to be using every last inch of his copious energy to inspire his young charge, who himself is trying to keep old-school jazz alive on more than just dusty records. A dig through Terry’s 2011 autobiography would be more instructive, but this still does the trick.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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