Keep On Keepin' On

A force in jazz since the 1950s, trumpeter Clark Terry has played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie to Charles Mingus to Sonny Rollins to Lionel Hampton to Cecil Taylor, and he mentored both Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. Yet this documentary by Alan Hicks focuses on Terry’s relationship with his latest protégé, an aspiring jazz pianist named Justin Kauflin. Separated by seven decades, they come at the music from opposite directions—Terry learned to play in bars and juke joints, Kauflin in the sterile confines of the academy—yet both men are blind, Terry having lost his sight to diabetes, Kauflin to a hereditary disorder at age 11. As Terry’s health declines, the documentary takes on a rather ghoulish aspect; at one point both his legs have to be amputated, and Jones, himself pushing 80, shows up for an emotional reunion that one assumes will be the men’s last. But by the end of the movie, Terry is still hanging in there, a living legend who refuses to become the other kind.