September 14, 2014 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Those of you here who are jazz fans may have heard a little about Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild. Her nickname "Nica" is enshrined in many a jazz composition's title, for example Nica's Tempo, Nica's Dream, Blues for Nica and, simpy, Nica. She was, as you'd imagine, a devoted lover of jazz, and an inestimably important benefactor, patron and enabler of many of the jazz legends of her time, especially the great Thelonius Monk. Learn more about her in this Guardian article: The jazz baroness and the bebop king.
posted by flapjax at midnite (8 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Buried in the story it mentions that her grand-niece made a documentary about Nica's life - from the quotes in the article it sounds like it will be an interesting film - I hope it makes it online. The Baroness was definitely a huge presence in jazz at the time. Anyone know of a book talking about music patrons? I'd be curious to know enough about the Princesse de Polignac and Baroness Rothschild to make a comparison.
posted by ianhattwick at 9:31 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another good post, flapjax. Also of note is that Nica's NYC apartment was where, of course, the great Charlie Parker died in 1955.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:12 PM on September 14, 2014

The article's from 2008. The documentary should be available now.
posted by carping demon at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know you can all use google, I just figured you hadn't had time yet. (hadn't?)
posted by carping demon at 10:22 PM on September 14, 2014

For an incredible portrait of Monk's life and Nica's role in it read Robin Kelley's Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. It's written by an historian rather than a music critic and the difference is evident on every page.
posted by cleroy at 10:22 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

A tall, imposing figure, he wore funny hats, spoke little (at least to reporters) and often rose from the piano stool to execute a strange lumbering dance.

from wikipedia: "Bassist Al McKibbon, who had known Monk for over twenty years and played on his final tour in 1971, later said: "On that tour Monk said about two words. I mean literally maybe two words. He didn't say 'Good morning', 'Goodnight', 'What time?' Nothing. Why, I don't know. He sent word back after the tour was over that the reason he couldn't communicate or play was that Art Blakey and I were so ugly."
posted by thelonius at 10:35 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had started listening to Monk a few years ago, about the same time the History of Rome podcast was dealing with the Empire bumping up against its Danube frontier in Pannonia. When I first saw Pannonica listed on the back of a CD I had one of those "wait a minute, I recognize this word, but not in this context" moments. It took a few minutes of memory searching and googling before I managed to make the connection through Nica. It was a nice way to bump into her.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:54 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Now, there's someone who used her life well; who else did so much for jazz musicians in the '50s and '60s in the face of so much opposition? Thanks for this post; I was surprised you didn't include one of the most piercingly beautiful of all jazz tunes, "Pannonica," but benito.strauss has remedied that omission with a link to a classic Monk performance. I'm surprised more people don't cover it; that great Monk interpreter Steve Lacy has done so repeatedly (there's a five-minute live solo version on 5 X Monk X Lacy and a nine-minute studio recording with Roswell Rudd on Monk's Dream), and of course it's included on the three-disc Monk's Casino, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's live recording of all Monk's compositions with a great group, Axel Dörner (trumpet), Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet), Jan Roder (b), and Uli Jennessen (d)—just a minute and a half, but what a performance! Anyone who loves Monk should get that set; it's pricey, but well worth it. (You can hear at least a sample of each version at the links.)
posted by languagehat at 6:53 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

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