Rachelle Ferrell is always happy to do shows with her own trio and have a whole evening to sing to fans.
But there are benefits to being part of large packages like this weekend's Jazz Spectacular at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, too.
"It requires different things of you, of your skill set," Ferrell, 52, says by hone from a tour stop in Albany, N.Y. "So in that way it's challenging. You're using different muscles, and that's always a good thing for us artists."
And Ferrell is one who likes a good challenge.
The Pennsylvania native, who plays violin and piano as well as boasting a six-octave vocal range, has pushed boundaries since making her first solo album in 1990, after spending years singing backup for the likes of Lou Rawls, George Duke, Patti LaBelle and others. Even now she revels in "singing four bars, two measures for five hours," exploring nuances and textures with her voice.
But she knows that not what everyone wants from her.
"People want their favorites, and after all this time they have a certain paradigm or certain parameters in which they place me and my music," Farrell says. "They just want the song and don't give a damn about the artistry or how you get to that.
"Fortunately from time to time the best of my audience allows me to continue to grow and expand and develop as an artist. So I do still love it."
Ferrell's latest project will push a few boundaries, too. She's about three-quarters of the way done with her next album, which she's taking in a surprising direction.
"I'm going down this pathway of mixing country elements into my music, going back to the roots," says Ferrell, whose parents hail from the South. "I didn't expect it to be so easy to mix and blend, but it does and that That has become fun and the surprise of it for me. It's like being an aural alchemist in a whole other way. It's a new element, a new ingredient. I love it. It's delicious to me."
Jazz Spectacular featuring Najee, Rachelle Ferrell, Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright and more
5 p.m. Sunday, June 19.
Freedom Hill Ampitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway at Schoennherr Road, Sterling Heights.
Tickets are $43.50-$83.50 pavilion, $33.50 lawn.
Call 586-268-5100 or visit palacenet.com.
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