Monday, December 7, 2009


Monk, have you watched the HBO documentary Jazz Baroness? Hannah Rothschild, Pannonica's(Nica) niece made it. HBO air it last week. Did you ever meet Hannah? I wondered if Nica ever talked about her. Most of the documentary I enjoyed. The interviews with Chico Hamilton, Roy Haynes, Quincy Jones and Archie Shepp were not insightful. Your son TS Monk was candid. He appeared to know more about Nica than the other musicians. Maybe it came across that way because of how Hannah edited it. TS felt that Nica loved you the first time she listened to the album 'Round Midnight". As the story goes, pianist Teddy Wilson played the recording for her. Nica made Wilson play the recording over and over. I'm sure she told you how much she adored it when she finally met you. I've always wondered what made Nica tick. Hannah explored that. TS mentioned Nica helped many jazz musicians just because, and she never asked for anything in return.

Monk, your BFF (best friend forever) was eccentric, tooling around New York in a Bentley, sharing her home with nearly 200 cats. (She knew each cat name.). She did not do drugs, but Nica was a drinker. Of course, her family disapproved of her behavior. After all, she was royalty. Royalty was supposed to be dignified. Nica never bought into that. Jules de Koenigswarter, her husband was a civil engineer, a French diplomat, and a bore. He hated jazz. He didn’t understand why she liked it. Whenever, Nica showed up late for dinner, Jules would punish her by breaking her jazz albums. Monk, I would've filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty after he smashed just one of my albums, but Nica endured the foolishness. They had three girls and two boys. Jules and Nica eventually divorced. The eldest daughter stayed with Nica. Hannah did not say if the daughter liked jazz. Nica's kids wouldn't participate in the documentary. Hannah didn't explain why. Maybe Nica's kids did not trust Hannah telling their moms story. Maybe they were ashamed of how Nica chose to live her life.

The documentary was a love story proving a woman and a man mutually attracted can be pals . The friendship was unconditional. Monk, did you and Nica ever considered crossing the line. George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, said not a chance. You’re committed to Nellie, your wife, 100%. Fooling around with Nica would've screwed up the friendship. Both women were concerned foremost about your well-being. I wondered if being so close to Nica bothered Nellie.

When the New York state police busted you for drugs, Nica took the rap. Some would say that was stupid. Such a self-less act proved her devotion. Nica couldn't fathom her BFF caged up like a zoo animal. Monk, I have a friends who I love dearly, but I wouldn't do jail time for them. I'm certain the feeling is mutual. That's a lot to expect from a friend, but Nica didn't think twice about it. Hannah's film was a nice homage. Nica was dedicated patron of jazz, and she was tough as an overcooked steak. She was unfazed by what people thought about her. Hannah did a fine job capturing what made Nica tick, her commitment to you, and her benevolence.
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