The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter
A descendant of the
English branch of the Rothschild family, the Baroness Pannonica
de Koenigswarter, or 'Nica'
as she was affectionately called, was considered as one of the most important
patrons and friends of modern jazz musicians.
She and the Monk family, in particular, were very close.
Raised in France,
Nica was somewhat of a rebel. During World War II she fought for the
Resistance while her brother was a courier for Winston Churchill, delivering
messages to Washington.
It was while he was in the U.S.
that he met pianist Teddy Wilson and took lessons from him, passing on his love
of jazz to his sister, Pannonica. Not long after marrying Jules de Koenigswarter, a pilot during the war who joined the French
diplomatic corps, Nica and her husband moved to Mexico
quickly became disinterested in Mexico
and, evidently, her marriage, and in 1951 headed New
York City where she rented a suite
at the Stanhope Hotel on Fifth
She plunged into the New
York jazz scene, attracting scores of
musicians to her apartment for rest, relaxation, conversation and impromptu jam
sessions. Quickly she became somewhat of
a patron to jazz musicians, helping them out with money, a place to stay, and
sometimes legal assistance. Her suite at
the Stanhope, unfortunately, is perhaps best known for being the place where
Charlie Parker died in 1955.
Because of Parker’s
death, the Baroness was forced to leave the Stanhope, so she took up residence
at the Bolivar Hotel where she lived for many years. Thelonious Monk’s
composition “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are”
was named for the hotel, in which she resided until she bought a house overlooking in Weehawken,
along the Hudson River.
first met Monk in Paris
in June, 1954, during the 'Salon du Jazz 1954' concert. She was introduced to Monk backstage by a
mutual friend - pianist Mary Lou Williams – and remained lifelong friends. The Baroness proved to be a constant fount of support for Monk
and his family; she helped get his cabaret card reinstated after it was revoked
on at least two different occasions, and provided financial assistance when
Monk had trouble finding getting work.
Most importantly, in 1972, when Monk became so ill that he needed
special attention, he moved into a room in the Baroness’s New
Jersey home. There Nellie continued to take care of him
until his death in 1982. Eight years
later, The Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter
died at the age of seventy-four.