Interview: 93-Year-Old Jazz Legend Clark Terry Shares Lessons From Count Basie and Duke Ellington With 'Keep On Keepin' On'
Photo Credit: S & A

Interview: 93-Year-Old Jazz Legend Clark Terry Shares Lessons From Count Basie and Duke Ellington With 'Keep On Keepin' On'

Clark Terry


theaters now, "Keep On Keepin’ On" explores the moving relationship

between jazz icon Clark Terry and his 23-year-old protégé, piano prodigy Justin

Kauflin. As Terry begins to lose his sight due to complications from advanced

diabetes, he forms a special bond with Justin who is already blind, and the two

support each other in ways that no one else can.

Mr. Terry

recently spoke with Shadow And Act about his experiences making the movie and

some of the wisdom gleaned from his lengthy and prolific career of performing

and teaching jazz.

What made him decide to

teach other musicians throughout his career:

My older sister Ada Mae’s husband Sy helped

me so much that I really realized the importance of that, and so I wanted to do


Also, an older musician gave me stupid

answers that were lies and when I found out he had lied to me, I was determined

to teach people the right thing.

About his protégé and producer of the documentary, Quincy Jones:

When Quincy Jones walked in while they were

filming and I found out that it was a dream of his do to a movie about me, and

then when he saw the quality of what they were doing, he joined the

filmmakers.  I was absolutely and completely thrilled.  

Look at how Quincy Jones has grown in his

career and how well he has done. I’m so so very proud of Quincy, I dig him

the most.

On Justin Kauflin:

I saw in Justin the same thing I saw in

Quincy Jones, which was that he was very serious about his music and that he

had a lot of natural talent. I will never forget that moment when Justin played

for Quincy the first time. 

Justin helped me to accept losing my sight

and has been very compassionate about my health challenges. I have helped

him to get over his stage fright and to develop his talent because he is a

beautiful young man.

Some of the most valuable lessons picked up from his mentors that

he passes on to his own students:

I learned from Count Basie the importance of

the utilization of space and time while playing your solos.  Which means

to not try to play too many notes, but make sure you’re swinging. 

And from Duke Ellington I learned two rules

of life:  Number one, never quit.  And number two, don’t forget rule

number one.  From Duke I also learned the importance of being musically

creative, to keep things interesting.


he feels that jazz is headed:

I think that jazz is more appreciated than when I was growing up

because there were not any jazz classes in elementary, junior high, high

schools or colleges.  Today you can actually major in jazz and jazz is

taught in many schools.  And there are jazz festivals. I believe that

jazz is growing. Jazz allows a high level of creativity and venting of feeling.

What he hopes that people

will learn from his life story: 

More than anything, I would hope people

realize the urgency of helping young musicians make their dreams come

true. And musicians should realize the necessity of practice. I have

always believed in practice, practice, practice.

"Keep On Keepin’ On" is in theaters

now. Find screening details on the film’s website HERE.


to Mr. Clark Terry for the conversation. 

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2023 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.