#61: Rachel Seville Tashjian (GQ)
GQ's Rachel Seville Tashjian on Sailing, Albert Ayler & the Free Jazz Movement, Animal Figurines, and more!
Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked cool person Rachel Seville Tashjian to come on Perfectly Imperfect & spread the hot rec wealth.
Rachel is not only a Style Writer at GQ, but she’s the co-host of the Corporate Lunch podcast and the founder of Opulent Tips, an invite-only email newsletter that’s been getting a lot of buzz (shout out to Chris Black for recommending it on his Perfectly Imperfect feature back in January). She’s one of the funniest & most interesting personalities in fashion and has a style that’s fully her own. Rachel has great taste and lucky for us, she’s here to talk about what she’s been into.
Without further ado
A very early album Vangelis did as a soundtrack to a now-rare French documentary about animals. It makes me feel like I’m getting a massage and a third-eye-opening all at once!
It’s like rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, and surfing combined--except you can talk to your friends!
🎷 Albert Ayler
My dad is one of the biggest jazz heads in the world. He used to pick me up from the mall in eighth grade blasting Pharaoh Sanders or Maynard Ferguson, and when I got in, instead of turning it down, he would turn it up and say, “LISTEN TO THIS, MOUSE!!! JEEZ!!” Anyways: I first fell in love with Albert Ayler when I saw the 2013 Whitney exhibition Blues for Smoke, and on the ground floor--this is when the museum was still in the Breuer--they were playing this beautiful film of Ayler performing “Spirits Rejoice”--I think on French television. It’s very bizarre, very classic Ayler--it starts and stops multiple times, it mocks its source material, it discharges it into ecstasy. He’s like...the Herodotus of jazz. You can hear Louis Armstrong as much as you can hear Pharaoh Sanders. Ayler had one of the most fascinating lives. It was far too short: he died at 34, and there were rumors for decades that the mafia murdered him by tying him to a jukebox and throwing it into the East River.
Where to start? Well, his version of “On Green Dolphin Street” is one of the craziest things you’ll ever hear. Same goes with “Summertime.” And his live recordings are W-I-L-D: try “Live At Greenwich Village.” You can practically hear the paint peeling off the walls during “Truth Is Marching In.”
I think there’s this idea that free jazz was somehow inevitable, the same way that Abstract Expressionism was--that it was simply the logical endpoint of the art form. I don’t think that’s quite right. There’s an album called The Albert Ayler Story, which is like an audio documentary and which I also recommend a lot, in which there are lots of interviews with Ayler and friends, plus formative recordings. And his drummer Milford Graves talks how there was a movement in the 1960s to stop jazz music--specifically Pharaoh and Sun-Ra and Ayler--because the musicians were too involved in political activism. Critics said it had nothing to do with the music. But to Graves, this free or avant-garde jazz was always about political progress, because it allows you to have “abstract thoughts” that you later “condense” into something “more logical.” He says of the work he was making and would have continued to make with Ayler, who died in 1970: “I think the music was going to direct people into another area of consciousness.” That’s what was lost when Ayler died. Whereas in something like pop music, “you’re constantly moving around in a circle, where there’s no kind of opening out. You’re caught.” Isn’t that fascinating?
These are SO COOL!!! My grandmother used to collect them--she had a swan and several ducks which now festoon my parents’ guest room--and my parents bought a mouse for me, because they call me “Mouse.” But someone stole it when I had a party! Terrible behavior. Good thing it was years ago and I now have all-new friends. At any rate: I love the little boxes for letters and jewelry, I LOVE the pigs, and I think the miniature snakes ROCK. If my boyfriend and I ever move out of our cozy shoebox apartment I’ll start a collection in earnest.
🍋 Quil Lemons
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