It was standing room only at Vipers Alley in Lincolnshire, Illinois. You could see the anticipation and excitement grow among Rachelle Ferrell fans as show time approached. The musicians entered first and began to play and applause erupted. Then, Rachelle, wearing a tiered shimmering, knee length skirt, opaque tights and 3” zippered booties shook and shimmied her way onto the stage and the house went wild. Right away she started having fun with everyone, dancing and singing about moving her body while it still feels good and before she gets too old to do so. The audience responded with a roaring applause and “I love you” shouts that continued throughout the show.
Rachelle Ferrell, a composer, lyricist, arranger, musician and vocalist, began singing at the age of 6 and is best known for her six plus octave range and ability to sing in the whistle register. She is capable of singing just about anything and sings it well, often taking her audience on a fun, emotional musical journey and this show was no exception.
Rachelle was born and raised in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, a small town near Philadelphia. In an interview with iRockJazz prior to the show Rachelle said she began performing professionally as a teenager. “I formed my first band in high school. It was an exercise in hilariousness as we had no discipline whatsoever,” laughs Rachelle. “We knew we loved music and could play it, but we all had different approaches to the songs. Everyone would show up for rehearsal at different times and argue about what we should play. We probably played one or two songs well. Eventually, the material went by the wayside and so did the band.”
This is quite the contrast to the quartet that accompanied her on this evening. She beamed with pride as she spoke fondly of and thanked each member of the band for their contribution and hard work. She talked about growing up in a time when there was a work ethic. “You worked hard to become skilled at something. Practicing over, and over, and over, and over until it becomes second nature.” She said each one of them have paid the price to be able to do what they do.
Rachelle’s flawless performance was engaging and electrifying. She sang a combination of new songs and some familiar favorites including “Sentimental” and “With Open Arms” singing both her and Will Downing’s part. She even had the audience participate in two of her songs. Rachelle who is a trained violinist, but doesn’t play anymore also plays the piano and guitar. She used her voice as she often does as an instrument providing more than vocal lyrics. She was twisting and shaping her mouth to belt out some of the best harmonic scats, wails, squeals and sound mixes anyone has ever heard. She sang with clarity and comfort enunciating every word no matter where she was in her range.
There were times she was so into the music and her performance that she seemed lost in it. Periodically, she’d stop and ask “Did ya’ll feel that?” At one point during her performance at the piano she stopped, grabbed a small bottle and turned to the audience and sprayed something into her mouth, probably throat spray. Everyone laughed. This is the kind of thing that makes Rachelle so relatable. You feel she is a good friend you’re spending an evening with.
Fans can look forward to the release of Rachelle’s new CD soon. After 10 years she is finally in the studio recording. “It’s a process,” says Rachelle. “Because, (laughingly) ya’ll know me.” Instead of hiring known songwriters and studio musicians, Rachelle decided to create and record the music with those whom she says she’s lived the music, her current touring band.
The title of her forthcoming CD is “Art and Soul”. She sang “Love is All Around Us”, one of the tracks from the album, a duet with Lalah Hathaway whom she met in Chicago in 2004. Others joining Rachelle on the album include Rahsaan Patterson, Ledisi, Kenny Lattimore, and Gary Taylor.
Rachelle told iRockJazz that to her, music is the most sacred and powerful thing short of human beings. She said music connects all of us. This performance was an excellent demonstration of how her music makes it possible for all types of people, if even for a short time, to forget about their differences and together share in the unique musical experience of Rachelle Ferrell.
You can follow Rachelle Ferrell at http://rachelleferrell.com.
By Tracye Dee