Record Club

In association with The Vinyl Factory

'When I die just keep playing the records,' Jimi Hendrix

‘If you really understand the meaning of be-bop, you understand the meaning of freedom,’ (Thelonius Monk). On the theme of jazz, this month’s Record Club guest is film-maker and writer Hannah Rothschild, with records inspired by the legendary story of her great aunt Pannonica (Nica) known as ‘the Jazz Baroness,’ and bebop king Thelonius Monk. Part musical odyssey, part love story, Hannah Rothschild's biography The Baroness draws a portrait of a great free spirit, tracing Nica’s journey from England's stately homes to the creative ferment of the New York jazz scene. Nica’s Bentley became a familiar sight outside the clubs and she drank whisky from a hip flask disguised as a Bible; the essential thing as Monk insisted, was to ‘play your own way,’ and for Nica and Monk that held true both in art and in life. Following their first meeting in Paris in 1954 they were barely parted until his death in 1982. In musical terms, Monk helped usher in the bebop revolution and charted a new course for modern music few were willing to follow. In an era when fast, dense, virtuosic solos were the order of the day, Monk was famous for his use of space and silence. In his own words, ‘talking about music is like dancing about architecture.’ In this spirit, here is the music.

‘Where’s jazz going? I don’t know? Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.’ Thelonius Monk

The Baroness: the search for Nica the rebellious Rothschild is out now, published by Virago. Below: Thelonious Monk and Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter get into her Bentley outside the Five Spot cafe, New York, 1964. Photograph: Ben Martin/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. 

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