An Evening with Carol Bach-Y-Rita

By Dee Dee McNeil / Jazz Journalist

It was a windy October evening and I had just left the wedding and reception for my first-born grandson, Kendall McNeil. To top off an afternoon celebrating love, what better way than to go hear some jazz. There is a restaurant and club called VIVA! RANCHO CANTINA in Burbank, California, just fifteen minutes from Pasadena where the reception was held. Carol Bach-Y-Rita has been sending me press and information on her upcoming performance schedule for some time. This was my first opportunity to catch one of her shows. When I arrive, vocalist & host, Laura Pursell, is already on stage singing “There Will Never Be Another You.” I slid onto a barstool and looked around. The club is intimate with a tiny space at the front of a line of banquet-table-seating. Two couples are swing-dancing near the stage. There are a couple of tables with seating for four pressed against one wall. The cohesive band is a trio, featuring Dori Amarillo on guitar, John Leftwich on double bass and the legendary Frank Devito on drums. Ms. Purcell is petite with a big voice. Dressed in a skin-tight, black sheath, after her song she invited a gentleman named Patrick to the stage to join her. They did a duet, singing “Pennies From Heaven.” Patrick has a satin-smooth voice, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra. Afterwards, Laura Pursell left the stage, leaving her male counterpart in the spotlight. He sang “Witchcraft”, followed by the familiar standard, “More.” During this beautiful balled, John Leftwich bowed a lovely solo on his double bass.

Finally, Ms. Pursell introduced Carol Bach-Y-Rita. Carol told the attentive audience she was going to begin with a samba that told the story of dancing ducks. To my pleasure, Carol Bach-Y-Rita sings in various languages. I believe she was singing this song in Portuguese. Ms. Bach-Y-Rita’s voice is warm and sensuous. It dances atop Dori Amarillo’s superb guitar rhythms lightly and with great enthusiasm.

Next, she offered her captive audience a ‘swing’ arrangement of the popular standard, “That’s All.” Swing dancers took to the tiny dance floor and Carol Bach-Y-Rita swung hard with Frank Devito pumping out a solid, infectious rhythm on his drum set. For her third song, Bach-Y-Rita dismissed the drummer and guitarist, featuring only her mellifluous voice and the double bass. The song is “Traveling Light” and she made the challenging melody sound easy, entertaining us emotionally and holding down the melody in her own stylized way. She closes her set out with a Latin arrangement on “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Carol scats a verse when she comes back in, after the band solos, and she and Frank Devito play tag on the end of the song, as she becomes very percussive with her voice against the strong backdrop of Devito’s drum chops. It was a short set, but packed with energy. Unfortunately for me, there was a very loud, drunk and obnoxious man sitting at the bar who was very inattentive to the music and extremely annoying. Other than that, it appeared that a fine time was had by all.
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