To dedicate so much of your artistic growth and evolution time to giving back by teaching and mentoring is almost mythical. To be so selfless as to gain from sharing, and to receive as much or more than what you gave to students who look up to you and your body of work… that is a kind of greatness that shines. It is immensely admirable. Clark Terry had a gift of selflessness. His students, and those to whom he became a mentor, live on as a living legacy carrying his artistry forward.
Terry played with a sense of wit and humour. It was not just the way he played, it was the way he played. It was not just in his music, but in a truly caring soul. His mentorship of the young blind piano player Justin Kauflin has become legendary stuff thanks in part to the film Keep On Keepin’ On, which follows the story of Clark as mentor with the young artist. Truly, though, it is not just because of the film, but about the actuality of the relationship between two deeply sensitive artists of different generations challenged by different physical realities. The challenges, though different, were the glue of the mentorship, and the relationship portrayed in the film magnified the depth of the soul of Terry. He played, gave, lived, and loved. Music benefited from it, and the evolution of the culture did, too.