Rachelle Ferrell began singing at the age of six, and quickly earned a reputation for her multi-octave range. Her range also includes the ability to reach the whistle register, as stated in an editorial review in which she references her whistle note in "It only took a minute" as "Minnie Riperton-like wailing." She received classical training on violin at an early age and by the time she was a teen, she was able to play the piano at a professional level. She enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston where she honed her musical abilities in arrangement, singing and songwriting.
From 1975-90, Ferrell sang backup for Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle, Vanessa Williams, and George Duke. Ferrell's debut, First Instrument, was released in 1990 in Japan , five years prior to its U.S. release. Recorded with bassist Tyrone Brown, pianist Eddie Green and drummer Doug Nally, an all-star cast of accompanists also leave their mark on her record. They include trumpeter Terrence Blanchard, pianists Gil Goldstein and Michel Petrucciani, bassists Kenny Davis and Stanley Clarke, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and keyboardist Pete Levin. Her unique take on now-standards like Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love," and Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine" captured the hearts and souls of the Japanese jazz buying public.