What they say…
“Tortured Soul are the future of house music!”
(Brownswood Recordings / BBC 6 Music)
Influenced by the classic songcraft of Prince, Heatwave and Kool & The Gang, Brooklyn-based dance trio Tortured Soul is living proof that modern soulful house can be freed from the DJ booth.
Tortured Soul’s origins date back to 2001 when drummer / vocalist John-Christian Urich was steering Cooly’s Hot Box, an acid jazz outfit also featuring under-the-radar indie soul vocalist Angela Johnson. After putting Cooly’s Hot Box on hiatus, Urich composed “Might Do Something Wrong” which was quickly picked up by New York-based deep house label Central Park Recordings, and Tortured Soul was born. Thanks to the cool laidback mix provided by Osunlade, the song quickly became an underground staple at the iconic Club Shelter and was in heavy rotation in the New York club circuit. Urich then decided to restructure the band’s line-up: bassist Jason ’JKriv’ Kriveloff and slick, jazz-honed keyboardist Ethan White – formally Urich‘s bandmates in the rhythm section of NYC acid-jazz band Topaz – were in. Together, the new trio forged a new cool sound by blending the freewheeling New York house and classic disco beats with elements of hip-hop, salsa and Roy Ayers-styled jazz-fusion.
From the very start, Urich secured himself as a power player, composing the lion’s share of material, delivering thick four-on-the-floor beats and using a smart vocal showcase fusing a Maxwell styled falsetto with Justin Timberlake-tinted lower register. But his bandmates were just as essential: White’s killer vibes on the Wurlitzer and Kriveloff’s booty-shaking bass were neatly integrated into the mix.
A succession of 12-inch singles followed, including Alix Alvarez’s mix of “How’s Your Life” and the romantic dance-pop of “Fall in Love”. Billboard dance critic Michael Paoletta lauded the latter track by calling it “a sterling, soul-slammed house jam”. Each of the singles impressed the bevy of the world’s dance halls, allowing the band to tour heavily with appearances at clubs and festivals across the US. With 2006’s “Introducing Tortured Soul”, the band was able to piece together their first debut album using all their earlier singles while also incorporating a few new studio additions. The follow-up album, 2009’s “Did You Miss Me”, released on the band’s own label, TSTC Records, ushered in a new wave of critical acclaim, climactically winning accolades from various music publications like Blues & Soul, SoulTracks and SoulBounce. Continuing their regimen for clubland rituals, Tortured Soul employed an attractive A-list of DJs and remixers to carefully handle the mixes for their latest batch of uptempo dancefloor fillers, including Mark de Clive-Lowe, Quentin Harris, Jon Cutler, DJ Spinna, Dimitri From Paris and remix pioneer Tom Moulton.
In 2010, Kriveloff departed the group to focus on his new record label. After a tedious audition process, the void was filled when talented New York bassist Jordan Scannella – dubbed ‘Jorscan’ for short – was hired. His arrival ushered in a new chapter in Tortured Soul’s evolution as the group started work on their third album along with even more groovy singles.
Over the years Tortured Soul‘s popularity has continued to spread across intercontinental boundaries as their touring schedules broadened with every single measure. So far, the group has wowed audiences at some of the world’s biggest music festivals, such as the Cape Town Jazz Festival, (South Africa), Java Jazz Festival (Indonesia), Detroit Electronic Music Festival (USA), Pukkelpop (Belgium), Big Chill Festival (UK) and Montreal International Jazz Festival (Canada). Touring abroad has not hindered them from making their bicoastal US rounds at Bonnaroo, Milwaukee’s Summerfest and at popular live venues like Hollywood’s Vanguard, Chicago’s Double Door, Atlanta’s Center Stage and Washington D.C.’s 930 Club. Their prowess has even won the praises of Barry Manilow and Lenny Kravitz and AllMusicGuide wrote that their songs are unapologetically poppy, explaining why their music has appeared on All My Children, A&E’s The Glades, Showtime’s Huff and Canada’s version of So You Think You Can Dance. Their music has become the soundtrack of retail shopping in stores like Gap, American Eagle Outfitters and Hollister, while even landing in a popular demo trial for Bose headphones. Tortured Soul have appeared on a wide range of dance compilations and their output has been licensed to Universal Japan, Defected, BMG Ariola, Dome and a host of other labels.
In March of 2015 keys maestro Ethan White tragically passed at the age of 39, just a few months shy of the release of much anticipated third album “Hot For Your Love Tonight”, which is dedicated to his memory. Knowing Ethan would have wanted the band to continue, Urich and Scannella decided to uphold their live bookings for 2015 and enlist the help of keyboardist Isamu Macgregor. With a new album album, video and tour schedule, Tortured Soul are preparing to take Gilles Peterson’s prophecy to task, and reach as many converts as possible – one tortured soul at a time.