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Jazz sensation makes Canadian debut in Belleville

By Candice-Rose Gagnon [1]

Belleville’s Downtown DocFest [2] is in its fourth year, but that didn’t stop organizers from throwing in a few firsts.  [3]

Blind jazz pianist and composer Justin Kauflin made his Canadian debut on the Empire Theatre stage on Feb.27, marking the first time the musician played in public in Canada.

The 28 year-old American musician has been making waves in the jazz music scene recently. Kauflin was signed by legendary music producer and composer Quincy Jones [4], and has been on two world tours with Jones’ band. Kaulfin’s debut album Dedication was also unveiled at the festival.

Kauflin is also featured in the award-winning documentary Keep on Keepin’ on [5] which follows Kauflin being mentored by jazz legend Clark Terry before his death.

The documentary was the official selection of the festival and was screened as the feature at this year’s opening night gala.

The film is an intimate look into the musician’s everyday life, and the important life and jazz lessons Terry instills in Kauflin.

Keep on Keepin’ on was also shortlisted for the Best Documentary at the Oscars this year, losing only to CitizenFour [6].

After the film was screened, the pianist took questions from the crowd and later performed in front of a sold out crowd.

Kauflin’s Canadian debut came just days after his mentor died. Clark Terry passed away Feb. 21. Kaulfin attended the memorial service in New York City after his Belleville performance, said Blair Yarranton, a music teacher at Centennial Secondary School.

Yarranton spent a considerable amount of time with the jazz pianist on Feb. 27.

He, along with Kaulfin, participated in a jazz workshop for music students from the Quinte area.

Over 400 students watched and listened to Kauflin speak about his experiences and were treated to a special screening of the film. 

DocFest organizer Dug Stevenson told Qnet News that the festival is growing. This year 56 films were screened in four different locations.

“It just might be the coldest DocFest on record!” Stevenson said at the opening gala on Feb. 27.

But the cold didn’t keep the crowds away. The gala night was sold out and more than 500 festival passes were sold, according to Stevenson.

Of the 56 films screened this year, 14 were produced by local filmmakers.