Wed June 22, 2011
"Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness"
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – On this installment of ST, we speak with the Brooklyn-based music writer David Kastin, whose latest book is "Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness." Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter (1913-88) --- known to her many friends simply as "Nica" --- was an important if little-known figure in the history of modern jazz. She also lived, as we learn on our show today, one heck of an interesting life. As a member of the English branch of the famous (and famously wealthy) Rothschild family --- and as a beautiful, glamorous, and somewhat rebellious woman who grew up in France and eventually worked for the Resistance during WWII (while a brother of hers served as Winston Churchill's personal liaison to FDR) --- Nica first entered the jazz world when she met the celebrated pianist Teddy Wilson in New York. She was a young woman at the time, and to say that she subsequently fell in love with jazz music seems a bit like an understatement. Nica would later form important friendships with the likes of Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams, and (in particular) Thelonious Monk. As the so-called "jazz baroness," she was a patron, companion, ally, and nurturer to many of the jazz greats active in NYC in the Fifties and Sixties. Musicians would regularly gather at her home (at all hours) to swap stories and ideas; there are a good two dozen jazz tunes named in her honor. As was noted of this book in a "starred review" in Library Journal: "This is an essential read for jazz enthusiasts and strongly suggested for those interested in new perspectives on jazz culture and its historical framework. Kastin is an exceptionally fine writer who compellingly blends rare interviews, in-depth research, and masterful storytelling in this first biography of a legendary individual."