Keep On Keepin’ On
With 24 tracks recorded between 1949 and last year, Keep On Keepin’ On is as much an ode to trumpeter Clark Terry as it is a soundtrack to director Alan Hicks’ superb 2014 documentary. The 94-year-old Terry died in February after a long, arduous battle with diabetes that required amputation of his legs during the film’s production. Hicks’ visual gem captured Terry’s mentoring of a gifted young blind pianist named Justin Kauflin. Both Kauflin and the director (who’s also a drummer) studied under Terry when he was an adjunct professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
Fittingly, the disc opens with the first of several dialogues taken directly from the film, as Terry expresses his belief in Kauflin. The trumpeter also reminisces about playing in Duke Ellington’s orchestra, which leads into his performances with the great pianist and bandleader on the chestnuts “Mood Indigo” and “Harlem Air Shaft.” Providing other aspects of his artistry, tracks include Terry’s playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio on Frank Loesser’s “Brotherhood of Man,” plus his signature scat-singing spoof “Mumbles.” Both are from 1964 and each serves as a reminder of Terry’s greatness. So does his performance of “Blee Blop Blues,” with the Count Basie Orchestra, which predates his tenure with Ellington.
Yet the album is a bit of a hodgepodge. It variously encompasses all-star symphonic spotlights on Terry; interludes by pianist Dave Grusin; and spoken tributes and performances by Kauflin and Quincy Jones. By contrast, the film centers on a pianist in his late 20s being guided by an ailing trumpeter. Terry’s former protégé, iconic producer Jones, comes to visit his mentor then signs Kauflin after hearing him play. The recording should lead listeners toward Hicks’ film, the ultimate tribute to the man Kauflin called “Mr. C.T.” —Bill Meredith