Although this book is not written about a jazz musician, it gives such an amazing insight into the live of jazz musicians in the 1940s and 1950s that it is just as much of a jazz biography as any of the others.
The book is about Pannonica de Koenigswarter (nee Rothschild), who was known as Nica to her family, and The Baroness to many of the jazz musicians in New York at the height of bebop. The book is written by her great niece Hannah Rothschild, so it is filled with many details of her personal life that could only have been known by those closest to her.
‘The Baroness’ introduces the reader to the history of the Rothschild family, detailing their rise from a small, incredibly poor Jewish family living in Frankfurt in the 18th century to becoming one of the wealthiest families in the world. The history of the Rothschilds is just astounding, and Hannah’s detailed stories about all the family members and their struggles is incredible. I had bought this book to learn more about the woman who had inspired so many jazz compositions, but found myself tearing through the pages to learn more about this fascinating family.
Born in 1913, Nica was raised into a highly privileged lifestyle, and could have had anything that money could buy, but she eventually abandoned that life, and her husband, to follow Thelonious Monk to New York and be his friend, supporting his blossoming career at every step. She also helped to support and fund the careers of many other jazz musicians such as Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins and Hank Mobley, and inspired such songs as Nica’s Dream, Pannonica, Bolivar Blues, Cats in my Belfry, Poor Butterfly, Little Butterfly and Thelonica, to name just a few.
The beauty of this book lies in the unpredictability of the story – as it continues to unfold you are more and more amazed at her life, her history and how she impacted the lives of jazz musicians in such a positive way. Therefore I don’t want to reveal too much more about it, but I really recommend reading it, as not only does it tell you about her life from the point of view of a close family member, it also gives you a rare, personal insight into the jazz scene at the time and the struggles that a lot of jazz musicians had to go through. It teaches you about the music, where it really came from and how it was composed – i believe this is really essential in order to get a true understanding and appreciation of bebop.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It cost me 1p from Amazon so definitely worth giving it a go!