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Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baronessby David Kastin
Synopses & Reviews
It's a misty night in 1950s New York. A silver Rolls-Royce screeches to a stop at the neon-lit doorway of a 52nd Street jazz club. Behind the wheel is a glamorous brunette, a chinchilla stole draped over her shoulder and a long cigarette holder clinched in her teeth. After taking a pull from a small silver flask, she glides past the bouncer into the murky depths of the Three Deuces. The Jazz Baroness has arrived.
Raised in fairy-tale splendor, Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter (known as "Nica") piloted her own plane across the English Channel, married a French baron, fought in the French Resistance, and had five children. Then she heard a recording of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." Inspired by the liberating spirit of jazz, Nica left her family, moved to Manhattan, and began haunting the city's nightclubs.
The tabloids first splashed her name across the headlines after Charlie Parker died in her hotel suite--a scandal that cast a dark shadow over the rest of her life. She retreated from the public eye, but through her ongoing ministrations to Monk and dozens of other musicians she became a legend. Nearly a score of jazz compositions have been written in her honor, including two of the most beloved classics of the genre: Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" and Monk's "Pannonica."
Nica's Dream traces the story of a fascinating woman across her thirty-year reign as the Jazz Baroness, but it also explores a transformative era in twentieth-century American culture. Based on interviews with musicians, family members, historians, and artists, David Kastin's probing biography unwraps the life of this enigmatic figure and evokes the vibrancy of New York during the birth of bebop, the first stirrings of the Beat Generation, and the advent of abstract expressionism.
Book News Annotation:
In this contribution to the history of jazz and the avant garde arts scene in New York, NY, music historian Kastin (I Hear America Singing) traces the life and patron role of heiress Pannonica ("Nica") Rothschild de Koenigswarter (1913-1988) in the careers of such jazz greats as Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker (who died in her hotel suite). The book includes photographs and a discography of works dedicated to the Baroness by Monk and others. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The first biography of the Rothschild heiress who became a muse and patron to jazz masters Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.
The first biography of the legendary Rothschild heiress who reigned as New York's "Jazz Baroness."
Praise for Nica's Dream:
"Finally! Nica's story told in Technicolor, with the grandeur to match her own. David Kastin penetrates the myths and legends about the Jazz Baroness. In doing so, he gives us a stunning cultural biography of New York City and a riveting portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century. Bravo!"--Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
"With a journalist's dedication to research and a storyteller's passion for historical context, Kastin relates the most unusual life of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswater--the woman who left behind a family and a fortune to dedicate herself to the maestri of modern jazz."--Ashley Kahn, author of The House that Trane Built
"The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter was a cultural bridge and source of understanding for an enormously important generation of jazz musicians. This book is a must-read."--T. S. Monk
"David Kastin has written the definitive biography of one of the most elusive, beguiling, and pivotal personalities in twentieth-century music. The story of Pannonica is essential reading for all fans of art, culture, and jazz."--Robert Kraft, president, Fox Music Inc.
"Nica's Dream is a brilliant and incisive addition to the history of jazz. The Baroness Nica is portrayed in such a truthful fashion that those of us blessed to have known her now can introduce her to anyone by giving them a copy of this outstanding biography. Nica's Dream reads like a picaresque novel. But it's all true."--David Amram, American composer, musician, and author
"A stunning biography of Monk's patron. What a story!" --Phil Schaap, curator and jazz historian, WKCR
Raised in fairy-tale splendor, Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter (known as "Nica") piloted her own plane across the English Channel, married a French baron, fought in the Resistance, and had five children — but then she heard a recording of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight." Beguiled by the beauty and liberating spirit of jazz, she left her family behind and moved to Manhattan, where she began hosting late-night jam sessions, socializing with Beat poets, and driving her silver Rolls Royce to the Five Spot and other fabled jazz venues. The tabloids first splashed her name across the headlines after Charlie Parker died in her hotel suite, but through her remarkable ministrations to Monk and dozens of other musicians she became a legend. Based on interviews with musicians, family members, historians, and artists, David Kastin's probing biography unwraps this enigmatic figure and evokes the vibrancy of New York during the birth of bebop and the advent of abstract expressionism.
About the Author
Music historian and educator David Kastin is the author of I Hear America Singing. His work has appeared in DownBeat, the Village Voice, and the Da Capo Best Music Writing series. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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