More than a decade removed from her last album, Rachelle Ferrell is dedicating herself to "going backwards and forwards at the same time."
That's no surprise for someone who's made up of, simply put, a lot of music. The Philadelphia-area native with the six-plus octave vocal range studied violin and piano as a youth as well as singing, arrangement and songwriting at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since she started recording during the mid-80s she's proven herself adept at jazz, R&B, pop and gospel, and she's more than held her own backing up Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, George Duke and others and alongside accompanists such as Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Stanley Clarke and other instrumental luminaries.
"For artists to remain relevant, we have to reinvent ourselves, remake ourselves," Ferrell, 50, explains. "The process of individualization weighs heavy on me. I've reclaimed the accuracy and discipline of my classical playing and put it in service of the freedom I feel in jazz and church music. It's a process of converging these different worlds together."
That ambition has taken Ferrell back into the record studio to make her first set of new material since 2000's "Individuality (Can I Be Me?)." She says she's "pretty far along" in the making of an album called "Art and Soul," which includes a collaboration with Ledisi and contributions by Dan Dugmore, a Nashville-based guitarist known for his work with pop artists such as James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks as well as a variety of country singers.
Ferrell says it "feels like it's been a lifetime" since she's had any new music out, but she's hoping to change that this year. "I've been showcasing bits and pieces of this project for folks for the last year," she notes. "It's been good to get that feedback and see how they respond to this new incarnate of Rachelle Ferrell. It's given me a lot of confidence, I can tell you that."
Rachelle Ferrell performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino and Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $41 and $39. Call 313-309-4700 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.
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