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Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness Hardcover – June 27, 2011


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Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness + The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild + Three Wishes: An Intimate Look at Jazz Greats
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393069400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393069402
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter was a cultural bridge, and source of understanding for an enormously important generation of jazz musicians. This book is a must read.” (T. S. Monk)

“Starred Review. 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.” (Library Journal)

“David Kastin has written the definitive biography of one of the most elusive, beguiling and pivotal personalities in 20th Century music. The story of Pannonica is essential reading for all fans of art, culture and jazz.” (Robert Kraft, President, Fox Music Inc.)

Nica’s Dream is a brilliant and incisive addition to the history of jazz. The Baroness Nica is portrayed in such a truthful fashion that those of us blessed to have known her now can introduce her to anyone by giving them a copy of this outstanding biography. Nica’s Dream reads like a picaresque novel. But it’s all true.” (David Amram, American composer, musician, author)

“A stunning biography of Monk’s patron. What a story!” (Phil Schaap, curator and jazz historian, WKCR-FM, New York City)

“With a journalist’s dedication to research and a storyteller’s passion for historical context, Kastin relates the most unusual life of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswater—the woman who left behind a family and a fortune to dedicate herself to the maestri of modern jazz.” (Ashley Kahn, author of The House that Trane Built)

“Finally! Nica’s story told in Technicolor, with the grandeur to match her own. David Kastin penetrates the myths and legends about the Jazz Baroness. In doing so, he gives us a stunning cultural biography of New York City and a riveting portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. Bravo!” (Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original)

From the Back Cover

Praise for Nica’s Dream:

“Finally! Nica’s story told in Technicolor, with the grandeur to match her own. David Kastin penetrates the myths and legends about the Jazz Baroness. In doing so, he gives us a stunning cultural biography of New York City and a riveting portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century. Bravo!”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

“With a journalist’s dedication to research and a storyteller’s passion for historical context, Kastin relates the most unusual life of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswater—the woman who left behind a family and a fortune to dedicate herself to the maestri of modern jazz.”—Ashley Kahn, author of The House that Trane Built

“The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter was a cultural bridge and source of understanding for an enormously important generation of jazz musicians. This book is a must-read.”—T. S. Monk

“David Kastin has written the definitive biography of one of the most elusive, beguiling, and pivotal personalities in twentieth-century music. The story of Pannonica is essential reading for all fans of art, culture, and jazz.”—Robert Kraft, president, Fox Music Inc.

Nica’s Dream is a brilliant and incisive addition to the history of jazz. The Baroness Nica is portrayed in such a truthful fashion that those of us blessed to have known her now can introduce her to anyone by giving them a copy of this outstanding biography. Nica’s Dream reads like a picaresque novel. But it’s all true.”—David Amram, American composer, musician, and author

“A stunning biography of Monk’s patron. What a story!” —Phil Schaap, curator and jazz historian, WKCR

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Louis J. Slovinsky on September 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I so much wanted David Kastin to succeed at a high level with his book, "Nica's Dream," because I grew up (and old) with bebop music from the night I first heard Dizzy Gillespie play Buffalo's Zanzibar Club in the mid-Fifties. But you can't review the book not written, only what's at hand. "Nica's Dream" is studded with historic bebop moments played in counterpoint to the dizzying downward spiral of Theolonius Monk's drugs- and mania-stunted life. Monk occupies the heart of the book. For all his demons, he left a brilliant jazz legacy, but his discography turns in on itself through repetition, his innovation sapped by idleness, whether imposed by debilitating illness or unconscionable cabaret license laws. One can argue that Monk never reached full potential.

But the book is billed as "The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness," the mysterious Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter, trust fund heir with a gold-plated European heritage and an English accent. Legend there is, but her life remains elusive. Kastin's compressed take on her early years is riveting: her World War II exploits--flying aircraft and driving jeeps in wartime North Africa, and raising five kids on the run--is every bit the equal of the military, spycraft and political adventures of her dashing husband, Jules. Excise the mostly extraneous jazz and cultural history by rote--the interconnection of the Big Bands, Abstract Expressionism, the Beat Movement, and so on--and the residual tale yields gleaming nuggets about the Rothschild family that could well become a Masterpiece Theater series.

Then Nica experiences her St.-Paul-on-the-Road-to-Damascus conversion on hearing Monk's "Round Midnight" in 1951, and her Patron Saint of Jazz persona emerges fully blown.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By dwood78 on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I remember heading about the UK-born heiress from the doc JAZZ, mainly due to Charlie Parker dying in her home (as would later Thelonious Monk), but beyond that, I knew very little about Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter (who I'll call "Nica" for the rest of this review) until I came across this book.

After looking into Nica's family tree, the book digs into her early life, being born into one the wealthiest families on earth, her marriage at age 22 to a French diplomat who later joined the Free French Forces to fight the Nazis. Although she was a jazz fan at this point, it was hearing Monk's "Round Midnight" that lead her to move to New York as well as her evolving into the "Jazz Baroness". A good deal of this book focus on her friendship with Monk, which is not an issue with me since it was his music led her to come to America & the fact that he spend his final years under her care.

It's great to see that Nica's love of jazz made her color blind in terms of race relations, although she ended up paying a huge price for that esp. in the wake of Parker's death. Yet despite a divorce & being disinherited by her family, Nica becomes a friend and patron for many prominent jazz musicians. Even hosting jam sessions in her home (some which has been taped but has yet to be released to the public or to jazz scholars) until her death in 1988.

Overall, this bio is a real page turner, at times reads like a novel. It must have been hard for the author researching info on Nica's family since they turned their backs on her. Still, he does a good job with this book, & should be a good read for those who want to know the true story behind the Jazz Baroness.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alideani on July 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I literally could not put this book down. It is fascinating, well-written, and immensely entertaining. It may be the best jazz "biography" I've read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Helmut Schwarzer on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A well written account of Nica and her place in Jazz. Of course, in order to bring the story to a 250-page book length, esp. given the baroness' publicity shy family, it had to be fleshed out with much that is well trodden ground and familiar to jazz, esp. bop aficionados. A few misspellings intrude. It is perhaps a sign of the times and the waning of cultural literacy that neither author nor his editor knows how to spell the name of Jackson Pollock, the great painter (it's NOT Pollack!). And it's Sarah Vaughan (not Vaughn). The fact that the author feels the urge to strut his jewishness by throwing about (quite unnecessarily)the yiddish word for family a half dozen times, without knowing how to spell it, is rather amusing. The word is not mishbocho, but mishpoche or mishpokhe.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gregory M. Wasson on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid fan of 1950s jazz, I had read about "the Jazz Baronness," Pannonica de Koenigswarter, an heir to the Rothschild fortune, in numerous articles and books about the people who populated the New York jazz scene in those days. When I read about the publication of "Nica's Dream," the first book-length biography devoted this patron of modern jazz, I downloaded the book to my Kindle and looked forward to a great read. Having finished it yesterday, I have to say I was disappointed. I was expecting a great biography, but I settled for an interesting series of vignettes about the world's hippest patron of the arts and those musicians with whom her life intersected.

I think that my disappointment with the book has less to do with the writing or presentation of the subject by the author than it does with the subject matter itself. The problem for the author was finding a way to write a biography of a person whose historical importance depended almost entirely on her relationships with the musicians she knew, rather than her own individual achievements. 'Nica was undeniably a great patron of an art form which then, as now, was looked on with suspicion if not outright derision by the public at large. That she was a devoted friend to many of the most important jazz musicians of her time is undeniable. But it proves awkward in the extreme to tell her story without having to substantially tell the story of those individual musicians, often in great detail.

Sometimes the stories of 'Nica's adventures with musicians like Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and scores of others are engaging and entertaining, and the book is generally quite readable.
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