I had the opportunity to speak with Hannah Rothschild for today’s program. She is the great-niece of the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, better known as Nica. Rothschild has just published a biography of her great aunt called “The Baroness: The Search for Nica the Rebellious Rothschild.” (It’s out in the UK, but won’t be released in the US until next year). The first half of the book reads a bit like “Downton Abbey with Jews, against the backdrop of growing European anti-semitism” (Hannah gratefully laughed at that description). The second half of the book – at least for jazz cognoscenti – won’t seem like a new story. But for newcomers, it’s compelling and fascinating. Hannah Rothschild delves into how Nica became the muse and benefactor to jazz pianist Thelonius Monk.
Hannah conducted deep research, spoke to anyone who was still alive, and captured the mood of those early days of BeBop when Nica was in New York, hosting subversive after-hours jam sessions at her apartment at the segregated Stanhope Hotel near the Met. These stories are where the treasure lies in “The Baroness.”
The chapter titled “Bird” deals exclusively with what happened on the night of March 22, 1955 when Charlie Parker arrived at Nica’s apartment in a terribly state of health. He would not leave there alive.