The Jazz Baroness (2009)

Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Mark Deming

Pannonica de Koenigswarter was a woman who grew up surrounded by wealth and privilege -- she was a member of the Rothschild family, one of the most powerful names in British banking and politics, and she was heir to a significant portion of the Rothschild fortune. However, while in New York en route to meet her husband, Pannonica heard a recording of "Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk and was transfixed by its beauty and emotional power. Pannonica cancelled a flight home so she could listen to more of Monk's music, and eventually she tracked down the musician in 1954, striking up a close friendship that stopped just short of a love affair. Monk even wrote a tune for her, "Pannonica", and she became a passionate supporter of American jazz, befriending a number of leading musicians (including Charlie Parker), letting them stay in her home, helping them find gigs and using her wealth to subsidize their art. However, Pannonica's close friendships with African-Americans did not sit well with many in the rarified social circles she was accustomed to, and she also suffered from mental illness that became pronounced in the later years of her life. Filmmaker Hannah Rothschild, Pannonica's great-niece, offers a compelling portrait of a woman who became an unlikely patron of the arts in the documentary The Jazz Baroness. Featuring narration by Helen Mirren and interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp and T.S. Monk Jr., The Jazz Baroness was produced for British television and was an official selection at Toronto's 2009 Hot Docs Film Festival.