[JPL] Three Wishes: An Intimate Look at Jazz Greats

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue Jan 6 22:17:56 EST 2009

    Random Book Review: /Three Wishes: An Intimate Look at Jazz Greats/

Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter still looms in the margins of jazz 
history. Until now, her contributions during the Fifties, Sixties, and 
Seventies were known mostly to insiders, aficionados, historians, and 
journalists eager to sensationalize her association with the death of 
Charlie Parker, who famously died in her living room in 1955.

Though de Koenigswarter's spirit flickers on in the 20-plus compositions 
written in her honor, it would be impossible to overstate the extent to 
which she sheltered, fed, bailed out, provided for, and acted as friend 
and advocate to the musicians on New York City's jazz scene. In this new 
book, you'll read about her close association with heavyweights like 
Monk, Davis, Blakey, Powell, and, of course, Parker. During her lengthy 
and informative introduction, de Koenigswarter's granddaughter Nadine 
paints a poignant picture of her late grandmother as a woman with a 
determined drive to nurture. De Koenigswarter, for example, housed more 
than 100 cats. 

But Nadine also attempts to grasp her grandmother's love of jazz and 
reminds the reader of de Koenigswarter's concrete (and ultimately 
successful) campaign to abolish the discriminatory cabaret-card laws 
imposed at the time on New York's jazz musicians. But de Koenigswarter 
isn't the direct focus of Three Wishes.

In 1961, like a genie emerging from a bottle, "Nica," as she was 
affectionately known in the musicians' community, posed the eternal 
question to more than 300 musicians: "If you could have any three things 
in life, what would they be?" The answers comprise the true soul of 
Three Wishes. Unsurprisingly, they reveal much about a group of 
musicians who have, for the most part, receded into the shadows of 
history and myth and their relationships with their instruments, their 
craft, and the jazz art form itself. Though the musicians' answers -- by 
turns humorous, sad, and touching -- essentially consist of short 
napkin-note scribblings, they were compiled as jazz's popularity was 
beginning to wane in the United States. Thus, the book is charged with 
subtle but profound suggestions of disappointed expectations as a daily 
reality for all creative people and speaks to greater notions of 
fulfillment that we can all relate to.

A wealth of candid Polaroid photos taken by de Koenigswarter enhance the 
refreshingly personal -- and achingly human -- perspective that Three 
Wishes presents. It'd be a handsome addition for the collection of any 
vintage jazz fan with a coffee table.

--Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Dr. Jazz
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