The only thing that outshone Julian Fleisher’s twinkle in his eye was his metallic silver sequin suit as he delicately meandered his way onto the stage. The evening was set for a nostalgic and fun playlist of songs that hail from 1975, give or take a year.
Julian Fleisher and His Rather Big Band is made up of eight musical talents, all hailing from New York, who play an assortment of instruments ranging from the piano to the saxophone. Fleisher himself is a cabaret and jazz artist as well as a New York Public Radio host. On Thursday night Fleisher found himself in front of an eager audience at the Redfern Arts Center in Keene, New Hampshire.
It was immediately apparent that Fleisher has a passion for the music that was being showcased that evening, as he communicated to the audience with his stories and reasons behind choosing the songs he did. It was immensely enjoyable to not only listen to the songs that were being played, but also listening to the history and the context in which these songs were written. In his daily life, he simply kept coming back to 1975 as a great year for music and culture as a whole. “A lot of stuff was happening because people were mixing in a way that they had not mixed before, and sadly haven’t mixed since,” said Fleisher. He then cited many television shows including “All in the Family,” a 1970s TV show that talked about many social fears, phobias and challenges that are still relevant today. Fleisher’s admiration for the decade and the year itself was thought-provoking.
The crowd was enthralled by the playlist of songs from the culture of 1975 including a slew of popular songs ranging in genres, even including iconic movie soundtracks. The variety of the music choices made sense due to the nature of the times. “Everybody was doing their best work from every sphere of the pop music industry. You had the funk movement, you had rock and roll, you certainly had Motown, you had R&B… Stevie Wonder was at the height of his power,” said Fleisher. He cited Joni Mitchell as his personal savior, describing her as a transcendent being even in the time of so many greats.
Fleisher’s people skills were evident from the many instances of the show dedicated to talking to the audience. Relating to the audience and having the audience know who was in front of them simply made the show more fun and added to the fluidity of the ensemble that night. In the middle of the show, Fleisher introduced his band to the audience: Andrea Neumann on trombone, Alicia Rau on trumpet, Chelsea Baratz on saxophone, Sean Murphy on bass, Dave Berger on drums, Pete Smith on guitar and Lance Horne on piano. Fleisher and Smith have been playing with each other for more than 20 years. Horne, the band’s pianist, was trained by Keene State’s very own musical professor, Dr. Elaine Ginsberg.
In just under two hours, the crowd bought a bus ticket to the year 1975 and was immersed in the culture and importance of what the era meant not only to the people who were living through the 70s but also the current culture that we have today. It is important to learn from the past, for there are many things that have been said, but not truly listened to. Seeing Julian Fleisher and His Rather Big Band is a journey back in time that is well worth the ride, if you get the chance.
Rowan Heard can be contacted at