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“Jazzy Classics”-Miami vocalist Rochelle Lightfoot can serenade, scat and praise with ease

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/9/2013, 12:51 p.m. | Updated on 10/9/2013, 12:51 p.m.
Rochelle Lightfoot says she’s been singing since she could barely walk — shocking her mother by belting out an Aretha ...

Rochelle Lightfoot says she’s been singing since she could barely walk — shocking her mother by belting out an Aretha Franklin classic, “Respect,” at the tender age of 18 months, in perfect pitch. Like many gifted singers before her, she began to sing in church, also picking up a few instruments including the viola and flute. As she entered her 20s, Lightfoot, 41, began to pursue her passion for music as a professional vocalist. But, as she says, she also had to worry about “paying the bills.” Ironically, her career got a big boost when she returned from lunch three years ago and was told that her position had been terminated. That’s when she knew it was time to go after her dream. She has proven that she can tackle several musical genres: jazz, gospel, praise and worship and R&B — even a bit of country when the mood is right.

“When I first began singing professionally, I was still trying to find myself,” she said. “I also had to contend with recovering from the ‘death’ of a divorce, so my message was different. By the time I found myself unemployed, I had experienced and witnessed some things. I had been writing music too and the words came from a place of pure emotion — I wanted to help others move forward in their lives like I had.”

CD debut will feature jazz standards

Since that moment three years ago, Lightfoot has taken a negative and turned it into a definite positive. On Friday, Oct. 4 at Studio 504 at 8 p.m. [504 NE 190th Street], she’ll debut her big band jazz album, “Jazzy Classics,” further establishing herself as one of Miami’s most accomplished female vocalists.

“Completing this CD was on my bucket list,” she said. “I have always loved the band band era and the statements its music made — the lyrics tell stories all by themselves — something that’s often missing in today’s music. I handpicked every song and they all have lyrical significance in terms of what’s been happening in my life over the last eight years. From wonderful messages to playful scats, we tried to bring the passion of that era to life for our listeners.”

Lightfoot recently sang “The National Anthem” at a Miami Dolphins game and says even that opportunity was based on her admiration of another female vocalist.

“When I heard Whitney Houston sing it at the Super Bowl, I told myself ‘that’s what I am going to do — and I want to do it with the same amount of elegance and vocal purity,’” she said. “We have to be true to our gift that God has given us and respond with a positive message. Music can bring peace, hope and empowerment but it can also lead kids to commit acts of violence. That’s why artists must be responsible with the music we create — our youth are listening.”

Lightfoot says that besides Houston, some of her other role models include: Aretha (naturally), Patti, Gladys, Lena, Nancy and Dianne.

They were phenomenal women with phenomenal gifts,” she said. “And they did things for the Black community as well. That’s why I’m active in so many local organizations, like Girl Power, Three Little Flowers Center, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the National Kidney Foundation. In fact, I donated a kidney to a dear friend in 2007 and she’s doing just fine. You have to practice what you preach.”

In 2011, Lightfoot released her first CD, “The Gift,” a Christmas album. She’s in the studio now working on a CD of original pieces. For more info go to www.RochelleLightfoot.com.