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‘Love affair’ exists between Detroit, Rachelle Ferrell

Sunday’s Jazz Spectacular at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre includes Gerald Albright, Meli’sa Morgan, Kenny Lattimore and Jonathan Butler

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News
Singer Rachelle Ferrell is a classically trained violinist and pianist.

Listening to Rachelle Ferrell sing George Gershwin’s “Summertime” is like sipping a cold glass of lemonade on a 90-degree day.

Local music lovers can expect this level of refreshment when the incredibly gifted and beloved songstress performs Sunday at the Jazz Spectacular at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre. The talent-packed roster also includes Gerald Albright, Meli’sa Morgan, Kenny Lattimore and Jonathan Butler.

“Detroit and I have been in a passionate love affair for many years,” Ferrell, 52, said during a phone interview Monday promoting the Father’s Day show.

“There’s a very deep, resonating connection. Detroit is a music town, and it’s real easy to tap into Detroiters’ musical intelligence and appreciation for quality music. It’s a mutual love. I have complete freedom when I perform in the city and its surrounding areas. And it’s Father’s Day, too? Come on.”

A classically trained violinist, pianist and Berklee College of Music graduate, Ferrell’s musical inspirations include Johannes Brahms, Carlos Nakai, Andres Segovia and Rage Against the Machine.

Ferrell said she fell in love with Metro Detroit the minute she felt accepted. Despite the Pennsylvania native’s deeply loyal jazz following, which extends to the Caribbean, Japan and Europe, her hard-to-define sound, six-octave range and five albums never garnered her great commercial success or accolades in America.

But the former backup singer for Patti LaBelle and George Duke said her life’s purpose is greater than trophies. Excruciatingly painful back problems threatened to take Ferrell away from the live-concert circuit she cherishes, but physical therapy, as well as a change in diet and footwear, helped her power back.

Currently Ferrell is working on an up-tempo new album titled “Believe (In Something Good).”

“My fans have always supported whatever it was I needed to do or felt compelled or inspired to do musically,” Ferrell said. “They recognize that I’m cut from a different cloth and they wanted to support that. I’m so grateful. As the late, great Bruce Lundvall (Blue Note president) would say, ‘So much music now is so derivative.’

“But love and support for me has allowed me to grow in many different directions to be uniquely myself — a nonconformist. You can’t buy that.”

Which comes back to the love Detroit fans have shown her time and time again. It’s an appreciation that keeps her going.

“Once you get the nod in Detroit, you know you’re OK,” Ferrell said. “They don’t give it to everybody. When you get the nod, you know you’re on point and on purpose.”

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter.

Rachelle Ferrell

Jazz Spectacular

Featuring Rachelle Ferrell, Gerald Albright,

Meli’sa Morgan, Kenny Lattimore and Jonathan Butler

5 p.m. Sunday

Freedom Hill Amphitheatre

14900 Metro Parkway, Sterling Heights

Tickets: $79.50-$29.50

(800) 745-3000