"Simply beautiful Cat...
You can feel it in every note he plays" - Quincy Jones
Justin Kauflin is an award-winning jazz pianist, composer, producer, and educator. He performs worldwide, has composed original film score for documentaries & promotional videos, and has produced 7 albums. He is a Quincy Jones Artist and Yamaha Artist.
Born March 10, 1986 in Silver Spring, MD, Justin began music at age 4 with Suzuki violin. After a decade of classical violin and piano, he switched to jazz piano in high school at the Governor's School for Performing Arts (VA) studying with Liz Barnes and Old Dominion University's John Toomey. He attended the Vail Jazz Workshop (CO), Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Residency (DC) and received top honors in jazz festivals across the U.S. He began performing jazz professionally at age 15, most notably with the Jae Sinnett Trio.
In 2004, Justin attended William Paterson University (NJ) where he was taken under the wings of legendary trumpeter, Clark Terry and became a member of the Clark Terry Ensemble. He also had the privilege of learning from his heroes, Mulgrew Miller and Harold Mabern. He graduated summa cum laude, moved to NYC and at age 23 produced, led, composed and performed on his debut CD, Introducing Justin Kauflin.
In 2012, he served as House Pianist at Havana Nights Jazz Club (VA) where his trio headlined regularly. In that year, he won the VSA International Young Soloist Award, was voted VEER's Jazz Artist of the Year and was selected as semifinalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.
During this time, Justin's relationship with mentor Clark Terry was being chronicled by friend and fellow musician, Al Hicks. Five years in the making, the resultant documentary, Keep On Keepin' On, won numerous awards and made the Oscar's Short List. Justin composed the film score and promoted the film with Q&A sessions at theater openings as well as appear on the Today Show and Queen Latifah Show. He was subsequently signed for management by legendary producer and music icon, Quincy Jones, who oversaw Justin's second and fourth full-length albums. Dedication debuted at #6 on CMJ Jazz chart, #10 on Billboard's Traditional Jazz Chart, hit #1 on JazzWeek's chart and remained in the top 10 spot for 9 straight weeks. Justin has since recorded 5 more albums as leader: Standards (2020), co-produced with Thomas Fonnesbaek, Christmas Candy (2019) titled for his retired Seeing Eye dog, Coming Home (2018) produced by Derrick Hodge, Synesthesia (2017) co-produced with Thomas Fonnesbaek, Silent Night (2017) a solo piano Christmas album featuring Jacob Collier on the title track. Justin appears on 25 albums as sideman or guest artist and has recorded 48 original compositions on albums and film (documentaries and promo videos).
The Justin Kauflin Trio toured extensively in Europe from 2015-2019. In addition to performances, they have been giving Jazz clinics and camps stateside and internationally as U.S. State Department Envoy.
2020’s Covid-19 pandemic gave birth to virtual jazz concerts & camps, and to his “Quarantine Series,” which are solo piano recordings of improvised meditations, standards, covers, soundtracks, and hymns. As an avid user of Native Instrument’s Komplete Kontrol (recently accessible to blind producers) and owner of a vast library of VSTs (virtual instruments), Justin is recording side-by-side comparisons in his “Piano Shootouts,” and collaborating with other users in “JK’s Playground.” As the pandemic worsened, he began livestreaming a musical prayer hour, “Sunday Hymns & Things” and “feature” concerts with “JK’s Wednesday Nite Hang.” In December, he added an additional night for a “Christmas Hang.” Two special livestreams include his tribute to Clark Terry on what would have been his 100th birthday “Clark Terry’s Centennial Celebration” and “JK’s Marathon Christmas Day Hang.”
Currently, he is scoring music for a couple new projects.
Justin Kauflin is a Yamaha Artist and Quincy Jones Artist
Diversity & Inclusion
Justin was diagnosed with proliferative exudative retinopathy in both eyes at 7 months of age and, after 13 surgeries, was totally blind by age 11. Through VA Beach Public Schools & VDBVI, he learned 5 grades of Braille & cane mobility while attending Governor's School for the Arts, graduating alongside his sighted peers.
The following resources have enabled Justin to study, work and travel as independently, competently, and safely as possible.
Justin demonstrating accessibility features of Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol for blind music producers.
RESOURCE LINKS & VIDEOS
KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON
KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON was one of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of 2014, depicting the friendship of music legend & teacher Clark Terry, 89 and Justin Kauflin, a 23 year old blind piano prodigy. One of Terry's greatest passions was jazz education, so in the spirit of Clark, the team of Keep On Keepin' On is committed to sharing CT's positive messages through educational screenings, Q&A's, jazz clinics and concerts. Ideal for high school and University level jazz programs!
Jazz Clinic Testimonials
"Justin's Trio are not only extraordinary musicians, but superb clinicians... They made our band room seem like the center of the jazz universe
"Justin did a fabulous job with the students in the jazz masterclass. He is a natural teacher with his honesty, sensitivity, temperament and ability to inspire"
-Governor's School for the Performing Arts
"Our students witness music-making at the highest level by visiting professional musicians like Kauflin. And Justin, only a few years older than the students, has a particular resonance"
-Trinity Episcopal IB Music
Official movie trailer
"Simply beautiful Cat...
You can feel it in every note he plays"
"He's a monster on the piano!
And, one of the greatest people I know"
"His playing impressed me,
and everyone I knew, tremendously!"
"There's such beauty in his playing.
His spirit and spirituality shine through"
"What gives the American pianist, Justin Kauflin, another edge over his rivals is the soulfulness of his repertoire... This is a musician who wants to do more than make you admire his virtuosity"
"Kauflin's execution, his ability to ripple waves of notes flawlessly and evoke colorful meadows of sound is unequivocably superb"
"Kauflin's strength is a concern for touch & dynamics...He can take a simple motif like the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and make a swinging concerto out of it"
-Los Angeles Times
"Kauflin favors a clarity of touch and ideas...His writing is also balanced, tempering post-bop tendencies with the assurances of the gospel church"
-The New York Times