I’ve waited long enough. It’s about time I enlightened you, Dear Reader(s), on the origin of my name. Assuming there’s more than one of you (or if, as I sometimes wonder, I only have one reader with multiple personality disorder and a bunch of fraudulent IP addresses, more than one of your identities) who’s speculated on or suspected about the subject, I will now illuminate.

The original Pannonica

The original Pannonica

Pannonica was the nickname of Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter, an expatriate of English and Hungarian descent who was a friend and patron of many New York jazz musicians from the 1950s to her death in 1988. Actually, consulting a biography I see now that Pannonica was part of her given name, which in full is Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild. ‘Nica’ was the nickname, shortened from Pannonica.

Anyway, it seems her father, Charles Rothschild of the fabulously wealthy English banking dynasty, was an amateur entomologist who for whatever reason had an abiding interest in the flora and flora of the Pannonian Plain in central Europe. On this blog’s Képtár page can be found images of some of these plants and animals– their species or subspecies name, pannonica, means “of Pannonia.” The Pannonian Plain is the basin of the Pliocene Pannonian Sea, which was a separated section of the Paratethys Sea, which was in turn a subsystem of the Alps-Himalaya geomorphological system. Sciencey digression cribbed from Wikipedia. Without consulting some sort of arcane Hungarian dictionary, I can’t tell you where Pannonia comes from. So, anyway,  Chuck apparently thought it would be neat to acknowledge his passion in the naming of his daughter. His brother Victor became a baron, his nieces were granted daughter-of baron status and, just to seal the deal, Pannonica married a French diplomat named Baron Jules von Koenigswarter, making her I guess a double baroness.

Her suites, first at the Stanhope Hotel and later at the Bolivar Hotel, were the site of jam sessions and frequent visits from some of the most important jazz musicians of the era. She had particularly strong friendships with Charlie Parker (it was in her rooms that he died) and Thelonious Monk.

And at last we get to the crux of the post. Thelonious Monk is one of my idols (he’s been on the sidebar under ‘Visionaries’ since Day One of this blog). Not appreciated immediately because of his many quirks and idiosyncrasies, as well as his unorthodox musical ideas, he was eventually given a place among the musical giants of the 20th Century. Even with this recognition and the tremendous respect his legacy has among aficionados, I feel he is still woefully underappreciated by the hoi polloi. In my opinion, he was greater than Ellington and Gershwin, the most significant non-classical composer of the century!

©Ray Avery/CTS Images

©Ray Avery/CTS Images

One of Monk’s most beloved, accessible, and beautiful compositions is “Pannonica.” It’s one of any number of songs dedicated to the Bebop Baroness, as she was sometimes called. Of course, his is the best of them all.

I chose “pannonica” as a pseudonym for my love of Monk’s music, for the exoticism the name evokes, and lastly because it’s similar to my real name. A true and happy confluence. Please take some time to listen to the two very different, but equally gorgeous versions presented below.

brilliant corners alone in san francisco
The original version, from the landmark 1956 album Brilliant Corners. The unusual instrument you hear is a celeste. Solo piano version from the 1959 masterpiece Alone in San Francisco.
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