Published May 04, 2009He was a brilliant jazz pianist, poor and black, who escaped the American South. She was a Jewish aristocrat from Europe who drove a Bentley. Together Thelonious Monk and Nica Rothschild made an unlikely couple in the segregated America of the '50s.
Nica's great-niece, Hannah, explores their mysterious relationship, despite the veil of secrecy that her wealthy family has raised. That secrecy has protected them through pogroms and the Holocaust, making the Rothschilds one of the richest families in Europe. How odd, then, that the heiress of a banking dynasty was drawn to a group of bebop musicians in New York.
It started in the early '50s when a friend played for Nica a mournful yet beautiful jazz piece entitled "Round Midnight." Nica fell in love with the music and instantly recognized the genius of this pianist years before anyone else. Later, Nica would meet Thelonious Monk at a gig in Paris and the two would become inseparable for years.
It appears that theirs was strictly a platonic relationship despite rumours to the contrary, yet they were not quite patron and artist either. Frankly, Nica's family considered the two of them strange. What they didn't understand was their friendship was based on music that freed both of their wayward souls. Nica was so devoted to Monk that she even took the fall for him and another black musician when cops busted them in Delaware for possession of marijuana. After all, in '50s America a white woman simply did not drive Negroes in her car.
The Jazz Baroness is about an enduring friendship that survives the barbs of societal racism. The film doesn't impart any deeper meaning but features a dreamy jazz score by Monk and chronicles a mysterious yet wonderful relationship between two special people. (BBC)