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Marcos Adam Negron + Photographer Jules Viera


© Rachelle Ferrell
◙ Live in Montreux
♫ I can explain (Track 06/12)

:: Rachelle Ferrell: vocals, piano
:: Claude Nobs: spoken vocals
:: George Duke: arranger, keyboards
:: Eddie Green: piano
:: Brian Simpson: keyboards
:: Jonathan Butler: guitar
:: Tyrone Brown: bass
:: Doug Nally: drums

Recorded live at The Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland between July 15, 1991 and July 12, 1997.

Ah, the LIVE AT MONTREUX album, the gold watch of jazz. It seems like once a musician or vocalist has spent a few decades in smoky clubs and roughneck juke joints, they get to fly to Switzerland and make a dignified (read: dull) recording in front of a respectful (read: bored) audience. It’s a tradition. That singer Rachelle Ferrell made her LIVE AT MONTREUX album only three albums into her career is surprising. That it’s her finest work yet is nothing short of amazing. On early albums like 1989’s FIRST INSTRUMENT, Ferrell seemed hesitant to find her own voice, too often relying on familiar phrasing even on original songs.

Perhaps this was just studio nerves, because on stage only two years later (nine of these 12 songs were recorded in 1991 with the Earl Green Trio, with the remainder coming from a 1997 date with a big band), Ferrell reinterprets a fine set of standards and works wonders on her original songs, particularly an excellent version of her signature tune, “I’m Special,” with George Duke on keyboards. The three later tracks are even better, as they show the result of several years of vocal experimentation on Ferrell’s part; her phrasing is remarkably free, but never as mannered as her contemporary Cassandra Wilson can be at times. Far from being a staid, boring run-through of tired material, Rachelle Ferrell’s LIVE AT MONTREUX is a revelation.

Fans of Rachelle Ferrell know how enjoyable her live shows can be. A little sassy, a little smooth, hers is a talent born for the stage, which is porbably one reason that her name, while big in jazz circles, hasn’t quite reached the echelon of Cassandra Wilson or Diana Krall. “Live In Montreaux” covers a lot of ground in making up for that.

This disc actually features pieces of two shows, one from 91 and one from 97, each featuring different musicians. 9 of the songs are from the ‘91 Montreaux show that is legendary amongst RF’s fans (as well as jazz critics), when she played with a trio of Philly boys and wowed the crowd. 

The best tune on the disc is a Rachelle original, “I’m Special” which features George Duke. The tune bounces, both by the propulsion of Rachelle’s incredible voice and some great keyboard and percussion work. Ms. Ferrell’s voice on this tune is in excellent form, and the bliss in her voice while singing this tune carries well to CD.

Rachelle chose her covers very wisely, particulary in taking on “My Funny Valentine”. While this tune has been covered to death, there is a torch quality to Rachelle’s version that gives the song a real sense of freshness. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is also gorgeous, and compares very well to the Cassandra Wilson version on “New Moon Daughter”. 

Other highlights - “I Can Explain”, “With Every Breath I Take”.

For the uninitiated, this is a great starting point for turning on to one of the most vibrant, yet underappreciated singers of our day.

Track List

01 Claude Nobs Intro
02 You Send Me
03 You Don’t Know What Love Is
04 Don’t Waste Your Time
05 My Funny Valentine
06 I Can Explain
07 I’m Special
08 Bye Bye Blackbird
09 Prayer Dance
10 With Every Breath I Take
11 Me Voila Seul
12 On Se Reveillera

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