Justin Kauflin, “For Clark” from Dedication (2015): Something Else! sneak peek

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We all know Clark Terry as a towering figure in jazz, a trumpeter who has enjoyed a seven decade career playing in the bands of Basie, Ellington and Quincy Jones, as well as an extensive career as a leader. But Clark’s greatest legacy might be as a teacher; he’s mentored fellow trumpet players Jones, Miles Davis, Randy Brecker, Wynton Marsalis — well as numerous notable non-trumpet jazz musicians — and the mentoring has continued on into his 90s.

Jones has produced a documentary (directed by Al Hicks) chronicling one of his more recent pupils over four years. But Keep On Keepin’ On (2014) isn’t just about an old hand showing a young, eager student the ropes. Justin Kauflin, a brilliant pianist and former child prodigy, had been blind since the age of eleven and Clark, whose diabetes was robbing him of his own sight, formed a bond that went beyond the music as Kauflin helped him to cope with the curtain closing on his eyes.

Dedication, going on sale January 13, 2015, is Justin Kauflin’s second release and is produced by by none other than Q himself. It’s dedicated to God and a lot of people important to Kauflin’s life, but Terry was undoubtedly foremost on his mind, coming right on the heels of the four years he spent with Terry in front of the camera, and I don’t need to tell you to whom his song “For Clark” (stream above) is dedicated.

Performed with his trio completed by Billy Williams on drums and Christopher Smith on bass, perhaps the striking thing about this poetic strain is Kauflin’s light and elegant touch on piano, especially during the ‘ballad’ first half. He seems concerned about conveying the right ardor into every note more than what note is played. The quickened pace of the second half has its own motif but is closely related to the first, not a jarring mashing together of two songs into one. And Williams and Smith provide sensitive support throughout.

A fitting salute to a longtime jazz star from his friend, a future jazz star.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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