Ordinarius Are Extraordinarius

We recently saw two concerts very different in their form of messenger, content and delivery. And yet both concerts shared the same ethic; that of the belief that music must communicate. The artists in these concert all knew that their instrumental wizardry or vocal intricacies would matter not one jot if their music did not communicate with the audience. Fans who attend live music performances on Lanzarote seem, as I do, to want the music to be ´my first, my last, my everything.’ None of the artists we saw in these two concert tried to upstage their music. Instead, they allowed the music to speak for itself. The music delivered their message more than eloquently. 

Lucas de Mulder is a guitar player and composer from Madrid, Spain. Lucas started his music career in Madrid, playing with different bands from the local music scene.  Especially influenced by guitarists and bands like Grant Green, Boogaloo Joe Jones, Eddie Roberts, Big John Patton, Lonnie Smith, The Meters, The New Mastersounds and Soulive, among others, he quickly found his sound to compose instrumental music using different elements of soul, jazz, and funk.

Recently, he has released three singles as a band-leader with The New Mastersounds and Nate Edgar, as an advance of the album produced by Eddie Roberts, guitarist of The New Mastersounds and Matador! Soul sounds, that will be released in 2022 for Denver-based record label Color Red.

He can also be seen playing with Beat Bronco Organ Trio (Rocafort Records), Maria Yfeu, Bambikina, Mighty Vamp (Sweet Records), Sabrosa (Beastie Boys Instrumental Music), and collaborating with Chip Wickham (Lovemonk), Martha High (James Brown backing vocals) and Lucky Brown (Tramp Records), among others. In addition, he’s part of the Acid Jam that takes place in El Intruso Bar, every Tuesday in Madrid since 2015.

He is also a teacher, with ten years experience teaching in adult education and in different schools and music schools in Madrid, as well as music conservatories. Currently, he is offering a specialized course for intermediate guitar players looking to further their knowledge and practice of the soul/jazz and funk music style.

At the age of 17, he moved to Madrid to continue his musical studies, graduating in 2014 from the Madrid Royal Conservatory of Music. After completing his studies, he began his career as a professional musician playing with different bands on the Madrid music scene.

Especially attracted to instrumental music, he quickly found his sown unique sound using different elements of funk, soul, jazz and pop, which are clearly reflected in his compositions, creating a very complete range of musical sounds.

In addition to his personal project, he can be seen playing with the Beat Bronco Organ Trio, The Sweet Vandals, Bambikina or Mighty Vamp, among others.

Tonight, Lucas De Mulder brought us a repertoire in which he played compositions from his latest album as band-leader “Feel The Spirit”, new compositions and some alternative versions of familiar songs.. He was accompanied by Enrique Blanco ona pumping Hammond and Javier “Skunk” Gomez on drums.

The audience tonight enjoyed the breadth of the material on offer as, by pushing its boundaries and crossing irs borders, Lucas Mulder allowed his music to speak for itself and avoid the excesses of showmanship that are the resorts of less capable performers. Audiences in Lanzarote, I think, prefer it this way.

Only three nights later we heard another stunning delivery of music, with vocals more prominant, perhaps, than they were from Luca, Enrique and Javier. 

A septet called Ordinarius were actually extraordinary ! How had I never previously heard of them?. I was not only unaware of what genre of music this was going to be but I was also unaware of what is an impressive and startling history of the outfit. 

Ordinarius was introduced to American presenters at the Arts Presenters conference in New York City in January 2017 and made their U.S. debut in January 2019 with a national tour of Performing Arts Centers, Universities and showcase clubs.  Their plans to return were short-circuited by COVID, but Ordinarius is looking forward to returning to the United States next season.

In 2012, Ordinarius competed with nine other Brazilian vocal groups and was awarded Second Place in the National Vocal Group Competition promoted by “Brasil Vocal”, at the Bank of Brazil Cultural Center (CCBB) in Rio de Janeiro. In this same year, the group released their first CD, which was acclaimed as one of the 100 best of the year, being preselected for the Brazilian Music Awards. The group promoted the release of their CD with special shows at the Sala Baden Powell and Centro Cultural Carioca, in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2013, the sextet was invited to perform in Germany, where they sang at Brot Fabrick (Frankfurt) and conducted Brazilian music workshops. Also that year, they performed a series of concerts at the Parque das Ruinas and at the Centro de Referencia da Musica Carioca. They were invited to be the opening act for the vocal group “Quarteto em Si” at the Festival Brasil Vocal (CCBB), performed on Rock in Rio, and took part in the webseries “Mais Vinicius, por favor”, produced by Coverflow for Multishow.

In 2014, the group performed at various venues in Rio de Janeiro and won first place in National Vocal Group Competition, the same competition in which they had been awarded second place in 2012. The year ended with their well-received crowd-funding campaign to complete their new CD, dedicated to the universe of “choro”.

in 2015, the group released its second CD, “Rio de Choro”. Also played at Teatro Rival, SESC Copacabana, CCBB-RJ, at the Federal Justice Cultural Center, at SESC Pompeia (recording Rolando Boldrin’s show, “Sr. Brasil”), at Hotel Mabu Thermas Grand Resort in Foz do Iguacu, among other private events.

Ordinarius has gone on to release a record of Carmen Miranda’s timeless songs and produced a number of videos that showcase their seamless vocal blend and creative, dynamic arrangements.  Their latest record, “Bossa 20,” is the basis of their next U.S. tour in January 2023.

Augusto Ordine is not only the Founder/Musical Director of Ordinarius. He is also singer, arranger, composer, conductor and musical director of Ordinarius, having produced both of the group’s CDs (2012 and 2015). Augusto has a Master’s degree in Music and Education from UNIRO and graduated in Conducting under the guidance of the choir director Carlos Alberto Figueiredo (Pro-Arte). He was a member of the vocal group Bombando, which released its first album in 2009 and with which he made soundtracks and appeared on several Brazilian TV shows (A grande Familia, Fantástico, and TV Xuxa, among others).

Augusto produced both CDs by singer Maíra Martins (2006 and 2011) and by the vocal group Da no Coro (2008-2009). He was responsible for the arrangements for the theatrical shows “Chacrinha” (2014), directed by Andrucha Waddington, “Elis, a Musical” (2013), directed by Dennis Carvallio and “Rock in Rio – O Musical” (2012), directed by Joao Fonseca, all of them with musical direction by Delia Fisher. He was responsible for the vocal preparation fo the shows “Frida Kahlo” (directed by Caco Ciocler), “Bibi in Concert III – Pop” (directed by F Bibi Feffeira) in which he also participated as a singer, and “O Romance do Pavao Misterioso”, (directed by Theotônio de Paiva). He has two CDs with the vocal group Equale and one with the vocal broup BR6. He was the conductor of choirs at Colégio Cruzzeiro (2012-2013) and of the INPI choir (2013). He as provided vocal arrangements for the groups Equale, BR6, Mulheres de Hollanda, Da no Coro, Folia de Três, 3 em Ponto, and for choirs from Colégio Sao Vicente, among others. In 2012, he released the CD Circular, with his own compositions, fform Projeto Magu.

Maíra Martins is not only the Principal Vocal Soloist but is also singer, conductor, and singing teacher, Maíra is finishing her Master’s degree in Musical Practice Teaching from UNIRIO. She holds a postgraduate degree in Music Therapy from the Conservatorio Brasileiro de Musica, a bachelor’s degree in Brazilian Popular Music from UNIRIO, a major in Music Teaching from Universidade Candido Mendes and a certifice in Therapy through Dance from Escola Angel Vianna. She is currently a choir conductor and music teacher at the Escola Sa Pereira school. Maíra is a member of the group Ordinarius, Projeto Magu and CRIA. She has released the albums: Rio de Choro (Ordinarius, 2015), a Familia (Grupo CRIA, 2013), Ordinarius (Ordinarius, 2012), Circular (Projeto Magu, 2012), Outro Ceu (Maíra Martins, 2012), Processo de Feitura (Maíra Martins, 2006), and Um Gosto de Sol (Grupo Equale, 2004).

Only three nights later we heard a concert by The Ordinarius vocal septet offering a varied repertoire, with the voice as the main instrument. The group’s original and exclusive arrangements are the work of Augusto Ordine, musical director and founder. The repertoire includes acapella pieces and songs with guitar, ukulele and percussion instrumental accompaniment. The works are drawn from Brazilian and international sources, from the American pop music of Stevie Wonder to the rock music of the Beatles, from the Brazilian bossa nova of Johnny Alf to the traditional “choro” of Ernesto Nazareth to the samba of Gilberto Gil.

Tonight the line-up was of three girls and three guys, all as vocalists, and another guy who sat behind them with a sparse drum kit and a couple of hand held shakers, with all other instrumental sounds provided by the voices of his six colleagues. 

All this created a happy and glorious and majestic performance that began with a finger-clicking, sashaying and beautifully dreamy South American Way. That opening told us immediately that we were in the hands of experts and perhaps in the presence of greatness. 

By the end of the second number about that girl from Ipenema both those hopes had already been realised. This has always been a long sigh of admiration song that in the hands of a male singer is often simply about watching all the girls go by but in the hands of female vocalists is open to other interpretations of perhaps, a mother´s pride in a daughter, or the slight envy of a best friend, or of a younger acolite who wants to grow up looking and walking and talking just like the subject of the song. Better writers than I would struggle to find the right adjective for the sound Ordinarius concocted here and I can´t think of the precise word that would suffice. I can only say it sounded sumptuous. It was sultry and sun-blown full of oohs and aahs and eehs, tongue knocks and finger snaps and a wonderful sea-side gentle washboard shuffle from the percussionist.

Throughout the evening, with the three girls on the left hand side of the stage and the guys on the rights and the ´drummer´ back centre we were treated to the rhythms of the bossa nova, the salsa and the samba. Each of the singers, casually proved capable of taking lead vocals in their own unique way, whilst their colleagues delivered the orchestral parts through wordless voices. 

At one time, although it was Spanish, I was pretty sure I was listening to Sunny (or something similar) made famous by Georgie Fame in the middle of the last century, and later Dee and I had the strange experience of singing along with the rest of the audience at the request of the group. We were providing ooh la la lah instrumentals to a song we couldn´t quite name but knew that we had loved for a long time. It´ll come to me but not, I suspect, before the end of this review.

It is the task of the critic to explain to fans what he has seen and heard but I am perhaps not the right man to do that, as I have a propensity, instead, to explore. I can´t really tell you what we heard last night, but I found myself thinking of that Paul Simon song, Renee And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War, that celebrates the ac appella doo wop groups of nineteen forties and fifties America such as The Moonglows, The Orioles and The Five Satins. I had never heard of those groups until Paul Simon´s endorsement of them, but after testing the waters I bought the ocean, and have  waves of doo wop on my playlists.

Ordinarius even brought to mind the quite extraordinary UK hit, Only You, by the Flying Pickets.

As a further example of how my constant need to explore obfuscates rather than illuminates, I could tell you of how Ordinarius in concert also looked and sounded like the grandchild of a marriage between The Beach Boys (of the Good Vibrations era) and The Mamas And Papas (in the days of Monday Monday). There were echoes of the soaring harmonies of both those groups and of the production values of  their ´leaders´, Brian Wilson and John Phillips, respectively. 

There were even visual reminders too, with one of the girls being all hip swinging, high harmony just like Michelle, and one of the guys, in a white shirt and black beret, performing with the carefree abandon of Mike Love.

The categorisation of music is a tool devised by the businessmen of the industry that is confusing to critics and ignored by musicians. It is intended to increase public recognition and lead to greater demand for performance and product. 

Nevertheless, as we left the theatre we came to a merchandise desk in the foyer carrying diminishing stocks of three or four different albums by the band. I was pretty sure that one of those would be the recorded version of what we heard tonight, but I had an exploration to undertake so instead I purchased Rio de Choro, hoping it might be something other than what he had just heard, so I would get a clearer picture that might lead me closer to a categorisation to offer you.

In truth, though, this music by Ordinarius is beyond any categorisation I can come up with, but is, instead, a fusion of all the categories I could come up with and maybe that confuses rather than clarifies.

This group should be delivering their excellence at arenas and festivals to massive audiences. Tonight they played to a less than full hall in St. Bartolome, perhaps because their potential audience were not able to identify from previews what they might be hearing.

I keep saying it people, but song-writer John Stewart said it first,… Its alright, It´s only music.

In fact, tonight was far more than alright,…..it was wonderful, uplifting and life-affirming.: a paean to the past and a prayer for the future.

Ordinarius are something out of the ordinary !

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