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. Ferrell first emerged in the states with her R&B debut Rachelle Ferrell (1992), a solid collection of self-penned originals that featured a striking duet with Will Downing (‘Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This’). It was with the release of First Instrument in 1994 (recorded prior to Rachelle Ferrell) that audiences were really introduced to Ferrell’s jazz sensibilities.
Rachelle Ferrell began singing at the age of six, which many speculate contributed to the “development of her startling 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 received classical training in violin at an early age and by the time she was a teen, she was able to play the piano at a professional level. She enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston where she honed her musical abilities in arrangement, singing and songwriting.
Throughout 1988-1989, Rachelle Ferrell sang backup for Phyllis Hyman. Soon after, Ferrell’s debut, First Instrument, was released in 1990 in Japan, five years prior to its US release. 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 Terence 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.