Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Jazz Baroness

The Jazz Baroness is a fascinating story at many levels - of a woman far ahead of her times, of an unconventional relationship, of the highs and lows in the life of a profoundly gifted musician - and much more. Director Hannah Rothschild, the grand-niece of Pannonica Rothschild (Nica) - the Jazz Baroness, pieces together the story of Nica and Thelonius Monk, the jazz pianist and composer. They make the most unlikely pair. He grew up on a humble farm in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, she in European mansions where the kings, queens and heads of state were frequent guests.

Yet when Nica hears Monk's recording of 'Round Midnight for the first time, something about the music moves her enough to leave her family and her way of life behind to become his muse. She was married with children at the time. Music was the force that brought these two people who inhabited very different worlds, together. In a time when racial discrimination and segregation were a way of life, Nica flouted every convention by becoming Monk's constant companion and surrounding herself with many other black musicians. The relationship was that much more unusual in that it stayed platonic. Monk remained married to his wife Nellie who in turn accepted Nica's presence in his life.

Nica's story is inspirational in many ways but to the modern woman who likes to think of herself as liberated and independent, she gives her reason to revalute her understanding of those concepts. Pannonica Rothschild was able to reinvent herself in ways that must have taken a great deal of courage specially in her time - not many "feminists" could hold a candle to her even today.

This movie debuts tonight on HBO2, Wed Nov 25 at 8pm.
Additional HBO2 playdates
: Mon. Nov. 29 (8:00 a.m.), Tues. Nov. 30 (3:00 p.m.), Thurs. Dec. 3 (6:30 p.m.), Fri. Dec. 11 (7:45 a.m.), Wed. Dec. 16 (1:30 p.m.)


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