Rachelle Ferrell is back, if not with a vengeance, at least with an attitude. An attitude of confidence, perseverance and hope.
Jazz enthusiasts couldn't help but be bowled over by Ferrell's extraordinary technique on her 1995 Blue Note album, First Instrument. And then, nothing. Reports of occasional performances here, irregular publicity there. What happened to her?
We may never know, except that Ferrell has moved from Philadelphia to New Mexico and has attained the peace that many find in the union with nature there. Individuality (Can I Be Me?) , though, hints strongly that Ferrell has gone through some tough times. Not only that, the titles of the tunes imply an identity crisis.
No wonder. Her work on Blue Note was one-of-a-kind, but was it jazz, or was it overcompensation? Was it scat, or was it gimmickry? It seems that her audiences were divided in their reactions, although they agreed on the astounding depth of her talent.
Well, Ferrell's identity seems to dwell within an R&D sensibility. All of the vocal techniques that Ferrell employed earliergutturalisms, purrs, peeps, siren-like cranking up of intensity, growls and moansare appropriate to the material she wrote for Individuality (Can I Be Me?). The coquetry and hurt that seep through her delivery assume consistency with meaning on "I Forgive You". In contrast, Ferrell's irrepressibility sometimes overpowered the wholeness of her expression in the jazz idiom, which depends on group interplay.
Perhaps "Reflections Of My Heart" stands out as the most melodic and expressive of the tunes on the CD. Ferrell and her younger brother Russ Barnes create a dialog of like-mindedness and belief that certainly should gain attention on the nation's R&B stations.
Rachelle Ferrell has found her own truth, it seems. Yes, she can be herself now. The convergence of self and music has led to the album that Ferrell was destined to make, jazz or noand one that is congruent with her personality.
Individuality (Can I Be Me?), Sista, Will You Remember Me?, I Forgive You, I Gotta Go, Why You Wanna Mess It All Up?, Gaia, Run To Me, Reflections Of My Heart, Satisfied, I Can Explain
Rachelle Ferrell, vocals; Jonathan Butler, guitar, vocals; Russ Barnes, vocals; George Duke, keyboards; Jef Lee Johnson, Tony Maiden, guitar; Byron Miller, bass; Lil' John Roberts, drums; Lenny Castro, percussion