Nine months ago, Kim Burrell suddenly seemed to switch gears when she was installed as pastor of Love and Liberty Fellowship Church, a modest space tucked away in a Greenspoint office park and identified only by a banner over the front door. The move stunned many fans who knew the gospel diva only from her successful recordings and headlining appearances at star-studded concerts.
It didn’t take long for the walls to shake with spirit at Love and Liberty Fellowship Church. Even before Pastor Kim Burrell took her place behind the carved wooden dais, the 100 or so faithful filling the folding chairs were on their feet shaking tambourines, clapping hands and harmonizing with the choir. Then the church founder stepped onto the rostrum, grabbed the microphone and stoked her congregation with soul-soothing song:
“In the splendor of Your Majesty, within our spirits sing. In the splendor of Your Majesty, from deep within our spirits sing … Holy, Holy,” intoned Burrell, her coal-dark hair and ebony dress framed by a backdrop of billowing white sheets, her muscular voice winding through the sanctuary. The dexterous vocals stirred the worshipers to celebration, set up the call-and-response rhythm of the service — and signaled the unmistakable presence of a star.
Lush and seductive, that voice has long marked Burrell as one of the music world’s most acclaimed singers, noted for her signature brand of jazz gospel, nominated for three Grammy Awards and lauded by the likes of Harry Connick Jr., Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan.
Burrell, 38, has performed and recorded with artists of every stripe – from music legend Stevie Wonder and funk pioneer George Clinton to R&B bad boy R. Kelly and rap singer Missy Elliot. Her latest album, a blend of secular and spiritual themes titled The Love Album, entered at No. 5 on the Billboard gospel charts.