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Published: 2004/09/30
by Jamie Lee

Studio 237 – Furley


If stage plots are any indication, horn sections are meant for the wings; the nimble fingered players assuming their roles just outside the spotlight, fingering occasional notes that decorate song structures built around drums, bass, guitar and keys. But that's not how Furley plays it. The Big Apple-born five-piece differentiates itself from other collectives by acknowledging horns not simply as accompaniment, but as the foundation of a groove, cramming the brassy tones deeper into the listeners ears than is healthy. Fine tuned and intensely orchestrated, it is in this configuration – saxophonist Juan Pablo Urine and trumpeter Jonathan Powell blowing brash themes over guitar driven power jazz – that Furley has established a name.

Unflinching and frenetic (think Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" on amphetamines), Furley's frequent jazz and funk explorations are powered by aggressive virtuosity, yet the sextet is inherently capable of pulling back and unleashing serpentine interludes that form a welcome reprise from the ever-present tension that typifies their style. Beneath the commanding and well-oiled horn phrasing, bassist Colm Connell, guitarist Joe Serrone, percussionist Vinny Commisso and drummer Ian Katz compile a myriad of textures and scenic diversions without losing focus or form. Most interesting is the seven-string synth-guitar played by Serrone, offering an unlimited range of effects that augment Furley's sound.

Studio 237 is the follow-up to the band’s 2003 debut, Dragon and

Phoenix, and the album is named after the studio space where the nine tracks were recorded. From the opening notes, the members assume the role of minstrel tour guides, leading the way through cerebral exhibits varied in content and color, yet consistently air-tight in execution. A sinewy guitar and sax progression introduces "Suckapunch," the album’s opener, only to recede into the billowing dub rumble of "Fire Lotus," bolstered by an echo-laden horn melody that emerges from a heady cloud of cavernous bass. "Cease Fire," a delirious romp through a carnival-esque soundscape, igniting the pace yet again, confirming a revolving door of tempos that continues throughout Studio 237

Jazz clearly is the root system of Furley, but it is evident on Studio 237 that, although the conventions of the genre are embraced (namely those meandering improvisational jaunts into the abyss), this band is more planted in a concrete foundation, functioning as a coordinated, interlocking body of sound. But as forceful and jolting as the flow of Studio 237 seems, it bodes well, confirming the power of a horn section and obliterating the humdrum ideal of musical roles within a band.

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