The Schmooze

Nica Rothschild, the Patron (Saint) of Jazz

NICA’S DREAM: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF THE JAZZ BARONESS
David Kastin
W. W. Norton, 272 pages, $26.95

Pannonica Rothschild, or “Nica,” as she was called, tried very hard to be an upstanding member of the famous Jewish banking family. She went to the right schools, married the right man (a French baron, no less), and had five children.

Ultimately, though, she couldn’t do it. Seduced by jazz, she fled to New York and became patron to dozens of musicians, most famously Thelonious Monk.

Her fascinating life is the subject of a new book titled “Nica’s Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Barones,” the second recent effort to tell this story. Two years ago, Nica’s grandniece, Hannah Rothschild, produced a documentary, “The Jazz Baroness,” which covered much of the same ground.

The British branch of the Rothschilds had a storied history. In 1807 Lionel Rothschild easily won election to the House of Commons, but was denied his seat because he was Jewish. He was finally allowed in 11 years later, following a change in the wording of the oath of office — an oath he took on a copy of the Old Testament.

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Nica Rothschild, the Patron (Saint) of Jazz

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