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Bebop Spoken There

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Nica's Dream - The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness by David Kastin.

Brought up in fairy-tale splendour, 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 moved to Manhattan, where she began hosting jam sessions, socialising 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 ministrations to Monk and other musicians she became a legend. Based on interviews with musicians, family members, historians and artists, this, the first biography of Nica, unwraps this enigmatic figure and evokes New York during the birth of bebop and the advent of abstract expressionism.
The above is from the publisher's blurb but the book itself is so so much more than the biography of one of jazz's more enigmatic fringe figures. 
Because of her association with Bird, Monk and the many other bebop musicians she came in contact with this is as much their story as it is hers. With each page you are on 52nd St., or listening to Monk at the Five Spot Café, driving with him through Delaware where a couple of cops beat him up or digging the jams in her various hotel rooms (she usually got evicted!)
Nica literally poured her soul and her money into helping and supporting modern jazz musicians and Monk in particular. Often pilloried and misunderstood by the media her enthusiasm never wavered - a truly remarkable woman.
And this is a remarkable book of the I couldn't put it down variety.
Author David Kaston, a music historian and educator living in Brooklyn is the author of I Hear America Singing. His work has appeared in Down Beat, The Village Voice and Da Capa Best Music Writing series.
Lance.
David Kastin: Nica's Dream - The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness. Published by W.W.Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06940-2. 

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