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Alan Hicks, Adam Hart, Justin Kauflin, Quincy Jones talk 'Keep On Keepin' On'

Director Alan Hicks, Quincy Jones and Justin Kauflin attend the 'Keep on Keepin' On' Premiere during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 19, 2014 in New York City
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On April 19, was on the scene at the "Keep On Keepin' On" world premiere with Quincy Jones at The Tribeca Film Festival. This premiere was exclusively for American Express card members. When asked what it meant to be supporting this film Quincy Jones said, "All you have to do is just be here because it's already there, the organic truth is already in the film. 70 years ago I studied as his first student, and he is the last student. That's automatically very dramatic and all. Greatest trumpet player in the world." When asked what Clark Terry means to him Jones said, "He's everything, he taught me how to play my horn and that's great."

"As a founding sponsor and partner of the Tribeca Film Festival every year we look to create exciting events for our card members, this year we're really pleased that one of our exclusive card member events is this film, 'Keep On Keeping On,' which sold out so fast, so we know that our card members are eager to see this special performance that's going to happen tonight with Quincy producing with Herbie Hancock and a number of other legends, I think it's going to be an exciting show. I have already been talking to other card members this afternoon who are so so excited for what's to come," American Express Director of Entertainment Partnerships Walter Fry told us on the red carpet.

Tell me how did you get involved with the film.

Adam: Me and the director, Al Hicks, we grew up and went to school together, as we were young kids down in Australia and when he was 18 years old, he moved to New York to study jazz. He studied in a jazz program at William Paterson in New Jersey, it was there that through a whole heap of crazy and amazing situations that he met the great Clark Terry and his wife, and their relationship really bonded and they grew that together. It was something really magical. I was still in Australia and I would be hearing about all this in his emails and stuff about this amazing jazz trumpet player and I had personally never heard of him before.

How did you connect with Clark Terry?

Alan: I studied at William Patterson University, and Clark lived around the corner from that school. Long story short, I got to know him being at that university, and he was losing his sight at that time, I told Clark that I knew this young blind piano player that just started at the school and I was able to to bring him over to Clark's and they really kicked it off and they became really good friends. Justin was able to help Clark as much as Clark was able to help Justin musically.

This is your directorial debut but are you musician first?

Alan: Yeah I guess, I didn't know I was a director until a couple of years ago.

Well what brought you to the school?

Alan: I'm a drummer, and I was studying jazz at William Patterson University.

What was the transition to make it a film?

Alan: Well the film originally was an Australian documentary channel was trying to do a film about myself and Clark, and our relationship musically, but that fell through. That's where we got the idea, we were surfing one day and we were like maybe we could make it all ourselves. That was 5 years ago, we just saved up money, got some cameras, and started shooting.

At what point did Quincy Jones as a producer come into the mix?

Alan: He actually walked into the film, we were on a shoot one day, which we've done hundreds of them with Justin and Clark and then we found out that Quincy was coming down with Snoop Dogg to record an album with Clark and we just couldn't believe it. This was a year and a half to two years ago.

Did Snoop Dogg appear in the film?

Alan: Snoop Dogg sprained his ankle and couldn't come, but Quincy was already on his way down, and it was this beautiful day, where Quincy was just able to hang out, his recording session got cancelled, he was able to meet Justin, he heard Justin play, and he was able to see his old teacher, and then he fell in love with Justin. That's how Quincy slowly became involved with the film and it was just fate. It's one of those weird things, it's hard to explain, he literally walked into it.

What surprised you about connecting with this legendary musician?

Alan: There's something about Clark's aura, whenever you walk into a room with Clark, we all feel that there is something about the guy. He just commands your attention, and anything he says is always some words of wisdom. You'll see it when you see the film.

Tell me about the young musician featured in the film named Justin Kauflin.

Alan: We started shooting and we started doing the film when he was 23 and he was kind of struggling, he's 28 now, and he was struggling in New York trying to get gigs, but he'd been a student of Clark's as well. We just started shooting in parallel, Clark's life and Justin's life, and they would come together from time to time, and then because we shot for nearly 5 years, if you shoot anybody's life for that period, there's ups and downs. The great thing about Clark Terry is that he's one of the greats and we're able to get that insight into the world of the master.

What shots were you going for was far as cinematography?

Adam: Basically the whole thing with Clark is that he's a happy, joyful and he's a very positive human being and we just wanted to create very warm scenes, and we were very fortunate enough that a lot of the shots are very tight knit, very personal and it's almost as if you're there sitting in the room. That's what I and Al wanted to create, as if you're looking at it as a fly on the wall and you're in the room and everything is very warm. That's just we wanted to create with the film.

Are you a musician or are you a film maker?

Adam: I just started out surfing when I was young and just traveling around the world, I would always take a camera with me and document all these places I was traveling to. I had some footage with a couple of my friends, so I filmed with him for a while, and that was kind of the beginning with it and like Al said, we would be sitting in the surf, talking about it. When his deal fell through with the ABC in Australia then we were like "Hey, the only thing that's stopping us from doing anything is ourselves." We're very positive guys and we chase what we do and whatever we do, we do it 110%.

What part of Australia are you guys from?

Adam: We're from Wollongong, just south of Sydney, East South Wales Australia.

Do you have any other projects lined up?

Adam: At this point we're still thinking of doing a behind-the-scenes film.

Are you a duo?

Adam: Yeah sure, absolutely this is both our first film, so this is the first one we've done, and we've learned all these skills and found out things about ourselves that we didn't know. It's been a ride. It's been amazing.

Gwen Terry is Clark Terry's wife and she is also featured in the film.

Tell me what was it like bringing cameras into your home for this documentary.

It was just like bringing in some tuna fish or some spaghetti, it became part of life and it was something Clark wanted to do to make his students happy. That was all it was.

Can you tell me about his decision to take on Justin.

He achieved very big heights in his career, he felt an emptiness, you make money and you do well, and then he taught some students how to become musicians and he found out he loved it so much until he cancelled a lot of gigs, and that's what he started doing, teaching. So that's his greatest love.

Are you a musician as well?

A long time ago and I just played the piano for 10 years, while I was young, played a little flute, but nothing like what Clark does. He plays his horn like you talk, so his lips are moving, his jaw is moving, his throat is moving, so he can make the horn sound differently than just an A. He's playing lyrical phrases.

Tell me what you admire about Quincy Jones.

Quincy Jones is also one of Clark's first students. Quincy has achieved great heights internationally, and he too, has a love for helping young people, he has schools, he has young people in a Global Gumbo Band that he's taking all over the world, so they have a commonality and love for spreading the knowledge and for helping young people up the ladder.

Justin Kauflin is the lead subject in the film and an incredible piano player.

Tell me when you first connected with Clark Terry.

Justin: I met Clark first in 2005 or 2006 while I was studying jazz at a college called William Patterson University. He lived by the campus and we would visit his house a bunch.

Tell me his mentorship and how he helped you as a musician.

Justin: Clark, first is an excellent teacher and he's completely devoted in being a teacher, he cares so much that he's been supportive, just someone I can turn to when I'm going through things. Just anything and everything you could ask for.

When did you realize you were musical?

Justin: Music was always part of my life and I started taking violin lessons when I was 4, piano when I was 9, what really happened was I lost my sight completely at age 11, and that was a catalyst. That spurred me on to take music much more seriously.

Tell me about meeting Quincy Jones and how he came to produce it, what was that like?

It was all very, just fate. I was down at Clark's and we were filming for the movie, the director, Alan Hicks was there, and they were just filming us in action and Quincy just showed up. He was there to visit Clark and I got a chance to play with Quincy and to hang with Quincy and Clark. I thought that was it. I was just like "My God. I got to meet Quincy Jones." Then he decided to be involved with the project after that, and then it's like "Are you kidding me," so I'm just going with it.

Grammy Award winning Jazz singer Dianne Reeves is featured in the documentary.

Tell us about your role in the film.

Yes, I'm interviewed in this documentary and I'm singing in it, I'm really excited about it, but more than anything, it's the celebration of Clark Terry and Justin Kauflin, this is really a wonderful thing.

Is Clark one of your mentors as well?

Absolutely, I met Clark when I was about 15 or 16 year old in high school not knowing anything, he just came in taught me so many things and we've been friends ever since.

Tell me about how you got your start in music.

In high school there was a jazz program at the time, and I was singing, we won a state championship that allowed us to go to Chicago of all places to be what was then called the National Association of Jazz Educator's Work, Clark was a clinician and that's where I met him.

Tell me about Quincy Jones, have you worked with him in the studio before?

Quincy and I have done all kinds of performances and things like that, it's always a wonderful time to be with him because he is such a master at everything and all genres of music.

Tell me about your favorite jazz standard is to sing.

I think if anything "I'm Glad There Is You."

We also spoke with Jill Mazursky, the executive producer and the film's associate producer Curtis Pesman.

How did you hear about this story to come on board?

Jill: I heard about this story really through through Curt and his wife, Paula, they did another movie called "Chasing Ice," which I helped them a little bit with. Before that, she won an Oscar for "The Cove," and they were doing this movie, and they were looking for a little help, and I tried to help and came through.

What did you love about this story?

Jill: For me, the story personally hit home on many different levels, I have a father who suffers from diabetes as well and almost lost his leg. In a weird way he's a legend. My dad worked with Quincy Jones. By the way, I feel like they are similar, because my dad has been through so much and is so alive now, like Clark, and then the other thing, I have a 12 year old son who plays trumpet. And when I saw the movie, Justin was the same age as my son when he went blind and that really touched me.

Curt: I had no choice but to hop on board as my wife was the producer, but ... the relationships of this movie are unlike any one you will ever see in a documentary, and people keep talking about it as a music documentary, but it's a relationship documentary. That's why the audience responded in unpredictable ways, and that's really a tribute to the filmmakers.

What's next for you?

Jill: I just sold a script ... it's not a documentary, it's a romantic comedy, and apparently we are going to be in production in the fall so probably that will be my next big project. I also have a side career as a book agent and I am helping Nick Nolte do his memoirs, and I actually have hopes to do another documentary, so we'll see.

Curt: Only to help this movie get up there in terms of distribution and it should have another life in education and also for the jazz festivals around the world, we hope to go beyond the film festivals.

After the screening, guests were treated to a live jazz concert event produced by Quincy Jones. Justin played for everyone and he was joined by Dianne Reeves for a song. Herbie Hancock also performed a song. It was really magical. The after-party presented by Bombay Sapphire and VDKA6100 was held at 121 Fulton Street. Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock were spotted at the same table and Whoopi Goldberg was spotted hanging out with Gwen Terry.

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