Keep On Keepin’ On the Documentary
by Sharon Nyree Williams
November 25, 2015
I’m sitting on my bed with one leg extended and one leg hanging off. My computer is in between my legs as I’m listening to the music playing in the background as the credits roll for the documentary Keep On Keepin’ On. I haven’t yet fully recovered from watching it. My nose is now stuffed up and I feel a headache coming on from all the tears I shedded while watching it. I’m so sensitive…
For a while now this documentary would come across my computer screen while I was searching for something to watch on Netflix. I always said to myself that I would watch it one day. Here I am the day before Thanksgiving, and I’ve finally followed up on a promise that I made to myself. To one day watch Keep On Keepin’ On.
I’m not here to critique the documentary. I’m not an expert in documentary filmmaking. Over the past year I’ve found myself watching more and more documentaries. This is my third one this week, that isn’t typical for me either. Generally, I may watch one a month or so, but I find that every time I watch one. I learn something. Which keeps me wanting to watch another one and another one. I mainly watch documentaries that deal with an artist’s plight. In my own way I’m hoping that I can learn from these artist’s life experiences. I’ve watched ones about bands, comedians, musicians, singers, athletes, etc. Over time I’ve just come to enjoy them and I feel the need to share my experience with you.
In watching Keep On Keepin’ On, I felt I was watching a love story. Without a doubt Clark Terry, Jr loved music and how it made him feel. He loved teaching and he loved sharing his gift with his students, his friends and with the world. At the same time you see the love he has for his student Justin Kauflin and the love, respect and admiration Justin had for Mr. Terry. You know from the moment you see them together that they are the best of friends.
The love didn’t stop there. I mentioned the love Mr. Terry had for music. In the film he celebrates his 90th, 91st, and 92nd birthdays. He spent most of his days in bed and he would have his trumpet with him or he would lie in his bed and riff off some notes or sing a little bit of a tune. It was a moving thing to watch. To watch a man who truly loves music and not be ashamed to show it. We should all be so lucky.
Continuing on the theme of love. It’s always powerful to hear legends like Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Diane Reaves, and many others speak of their love for Mr. Terry. But going beyond that and one of the most important aspects in my opinion is seeing the love between Mr. Terry and his wife Gwen. There was a point in the film when Mr. Terry had been in the hospital for a few months and it was finally time for him to go home. And you here him say, “Is that my Baby?” and she responds, “Yes it’s your, Baby.” Moments like that made my heart melt.
You have to watch it to experience the love that I did. I want to thank Alan Hicks, Paula Dupre’ Pesman, Mr. Quincy Jones, Adam Hart and everyone responsible for making Keep On Keepin’ On. Because of you I was introduced to a man and a love for a man that I might not have ever known. Much appreciation and respect…
Oh yeah, and I fell in love with Justin’s dog Candy as much as Justin and Mr. Terry did. She was so adorable.
Here are some other things that stood out to me in the film:
I believe in you and I believe in your talent. Clark Terry, Jr.
For one performance the man who was introducing Mr. Terry said, “…he was beyond a category”. Imagine someone introducing you as beyond a category. I can only hope and pray.
When talking about what teachers should do for their students. “They have to, be able to…give in to their own feelings and produce that which is in them”.
“You have to inspire and encourage them to do what they know they can do.”
I guess I gotta figure out how to be me. Justin Kauflin