Rachelle Ferrell is unquestionably one of the most dynamic talents in contemporary pop music. Very few vocal artists in the industry have Ferrell’s potent combination of range, phrasing, and musicianship.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Ferrell got started singing in the second grade at age six.
This no doubt contributed to the eventual development of her impressive six-and-change octave range. Her range also includes the ability to sing in the whistle register, as stated in an editorial review in which she references her highest notes in “It only took a minute” as “Minnie Riperton-like wailing”.
She decided early on, after classical training on violin, that she wanted to try to make her mark musically as an instrumentalist and songwriter. In her mid-teens, her father bought her a piano with the provision that she learn to play to a professional level. Within six months, Ferrell had secured her first professional gig as a pianist / singer. She began performing at 13 as a violinist, and in her mid-teens as a pianist and vocalist.
At 18, Ferrell enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston to study composition and arranging, where her classmates included Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Donald Harrison and Jeff Watts. She graduated in a year and taught music for awhile with Dizzy Gillespie for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Through the 1980's and into the early '90's, she'd worked with some of the top names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, George Benson and George Duke.
Ferrell's debut, 'First Instrument', was released in 1990 in Japan only. Recorded with bassist Tyrone Brown, pianist Eddie Green and drummer Doug Nally, an all-star cast of accompanists also leave their mark on her record; they include trumpeter Terrence Blanchard, pianists Gil Goldstein and Michel Petrucciani, bassists Kenny Davis and Stanley Clarke, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and keyboardist Pete Levin.
Her unique take on now-standards like Sam Cooke's 'You Send Me,' Cole Porter's 'What Is This Thing Called Love,' and Rodgers & Hart's 'My Funny Valentine,' captured the hearts and souls of the Japanese jazz-buying public.
Her 1992 self-titled U.S. debut, a more urban pop/contemporary album, was released on Capitol Records. In 1995, Blue Note / Capitol released her Japanese debut for U.S. audiences, and the response was similarly positive.
Although Ferrell has captured the jazz public's attention as a vocalist, she continues to compose and write songs on piano and violin. Her prolific songwriting abilities and ability to accompany herself on piano seem only to further her natural talent as a vocalist.
“Some people sing songs like they wear clothing, they put it on and take it off,” she explains in the biographical notes accompanying 'First Instrument'. “But when one performs four sets a night, six nights a week, that experience affords you the opportunity to present the song from the inside out, to express its essence. In this way, a singer expresses the song in the spirit in which it was written, the songwriter then translates emotion into words, the singer's job is to translate the words back into emotion.”
In the year 2000, Rachelle returned with the excellent, 'more street' orientated, ‘Individuality (Can I Be Me?)’
Rachelle Ferrell continues to make her mark not as a straight-ahead jazz singer and pianist, but as a crossover artist who's equally at home with urban contemporary pop, gospel, classical music and jazz.