Nica's Dream by David Kastin
The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness

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Synopsis

The first biography of the legendary Rothschild heiress who reigned as New York’s “Jazz Baroness.”


It’s a misty night in 1950s New York. A silver Rolls-Royce screeches to a stop at the neon-lit doorway of a 52nd Street jazz club. Behind the wheel is a glamorous brunette, a chinchilla stole draped over her shoulder and a long cigarette holder clinched in her teeth. After taking a pull from a small silver flask, she glides past the bouncer into the murky depths of the Three Deuces. The Jazz Baroness has arrived.



Raised in fairy-tale splendor, Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter (known as “Nica”) piloted her own plane across the English Channel, married a French baron, fought in the French Resistance, and had five children. Then she heard a recording of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” Inspired by the liberating spirit of jazz, Nica left her family, moved to Manhattan, and began haunting the city’s nightclubs.



The tabloids first splashed her name across the headlines after Charlie Parker died in her hotel suite—a scandal that cast a dark shadow over the rest of her life. She retreated from the public eye, but through her ongoing ministrations to Monk and dozens of other musicians she became a legend. Nearly a score of jazz compositions have been written in her honor, including two of the most beloved classics of the genre: Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” and Monk’s “Pannonica.”



Nica’s Dream traces the story of a fascinating woman across her thirty-year reign as the Jazz Baroness, but it also explores a transformative era in twentieth-century American culture. Based on interviews with musicians, family members, historians, and artists, David Kastin’s probing biography unwraps the life of this enigmatic figure and evokes the vibrancy of New York during the birth of bebop, the first stirrings of the Beat Generation, and the advent of abstract expressionism.
 

About David Kastin

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Music historian and educator David Kastin is the author of I Hear America Singing. His work has appeared in DownBeat, the Village Voice, and the Da Capo Best Music Writing series. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Published June 27, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 297 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Nica's Dream

Kirkus Reviews

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Music historian and educator Kastin (I Hear America Singing: An Introduction to Popular Music, 2001) narrates the life of Kathleen Annie Pannonica (Nica) Rothschild (1913–1988), an heiress who fell in love with American jazz and soon became a sort of fairy godmother to some of the form’s greatest...

Apr 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Nica's Dream: The Life and Le...

Star Tribune

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Kastin's biography does a brilliant job of placing Rothschild in the milieu of the 1950s world of New York jazz.

Jun 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Nica's Dream: The Life and Le...

The Washington Times

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At the age of 50, having fallen in love with jazz (as a result of hearing Teddy Wilson play the piano) she left her husband and five children in France and moved to the United States to immerse herself in the world of jazz and befriend its practitioners.

Aug 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Nica's Dream: The Life and Le...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Given all of that—which is not much information on which to build a biography—Kastin bases the bulk of his story on the relationship that Nica had with Monk, but gives too much attention to those in the art, literary, and film worlds who mistook jazz for something innately primitive or given to a...

Jul 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Nica's Dream: The Life and Le...

Bookmarks Magazine

Nearly a score of jazz compositions have been written in her honor, including two of the most beloved classics of the genre: Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” and Monk’s “Pannonica.”

Nica’s Dream traces the story of a fascinating woman across her thirty-year reign as the Jazz B...

Jun 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Nica's Dream: The Life and Le...

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