Quincy Jones, legendary music record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, television producer, film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, record company executive, humanitarian, and jazz trumpeter, is adding yet another achievement to his list. For the past five years, Jones has been producing and participating in the making of a documentary film about ninety-three year old jazz icon Clark Terry, entitled Keep On Keepin’ On. Released by The Radius/TWC, the film opens in select cities today, September 19th. At a youthful eighty-one years old, Jones told Huffington Post in regards to Keep On Keepin’ On, that “It’s about humanity. I’ve done forty movies and this is the most humanity I’ve ever seen on the screen. There’s so much truth there, I cry every time I see it.”
Directed by Al Hicks (a first-timer in the film making realm), it documents how Terry broke the color barrier in the music industry in the 60’s by being the first black musician hired by the famous NBC Orchestra for The Tonight Show, and how he has played with both Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie and Dinah Washington. It explores the mutually beneficial friendship Terry shares with legally blind, twenty-three year old piano prodigy Justin Kauflin, who suffers from detrimental stage fright but who also provides Terry with major moral support when Terry’s health takes a dangerous turn for the worse. The film also touches on Terry’s history as a mentor to Miles Davis, and Quincy Jones himself. Terry gave his thoughts on mentorship in an emailed interview to the LA Times, “Perpetuating our craft is what it’s all about,” he explains. Referring to those talents who need a bit of nurturing, he says, “They are our future, and we have to help them prepare for their future.” For all musicians, he advises, “You have to be committed and practice. You can never be too hip, because you can always learn something new.”
Australian director Al Hicks, who won the new documentary director award at the Tribeca Film Festival, is also a jazz drummer, who was mentored by Terry at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., where the jazz trumpeter taught. In a recent interview with Kauflin and the LA Times at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Hicks recounted how he came to mentored by Terry. “I was studying there for a year,” he recalls. “I hadn’t planned too well and had run out of money and was going to move back to Australia.” Lucky for Hicks, he was seated next to Terry at New York’s famed Blue Note jazz club when he went to see the Oscar Peterson Trio perform there. They got to talking, and before he knew it, Hicks was playing in Terry’s band and studying under him. It was right around this time that young Kauflin was starting at William Paterson University. Fate would have it that all three would put their heads together to make Keep On Keepin’ On. See it in theaters today at the Landmark in L.A., and at the Arclight in Hollywood.