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Jazz man crushes 

I've had my share of man-crushes. Too many to list here. Normally they're musicians, sometimes visual artists. I end up like George in that Seinfeld episode where he's all agog over Tony, a mountain-climbing boyfriend of Elaine. I've never offered to make sandwiches though for my man-crushes, as George does. Or there's Jerry's crush on Keith Hernandez, Mets first baseman, from the 86 Mets. I remember that run. Then there's Homer who can't help but smile at the thought of his new buddy Ray the roofer - great Simpsons episode that.

I trust you get my point: man crushes are those relationships where as a man you exclaim 'he's just so cool!' That's when your partner or wife rolls her eyes and laughs at you.

Well, not this time. I think the whole of the Festival Tent audience had a crush on Celso Machado and Aurelio Martinez. The Brazilian-born-and-raised Machado and the Honduran Martinez absolutely charmed the audience with gracious and easygoing personalities and effortless singing and playing.

I'm getting giddy just thinking about the sets by both of them ...

Machado mainly took to the stage himself, but he played in such a dynamic finger-picking style, his tenor soared, and he drummed on the back of the guitar body, up and down the neck that it felt like a full band was up there.

Mandolin player and fellow Brazilian Estanislau Nogueira Gubiotti joined Machado for several songs, and percussionist Alan Hetherington (from fellow Festival band, Tasa) sat in for a few too.

The serenade "Seresta ao Luar" was simply gorgeous - that's when my heart was truly his - and his ode to the Brazilian rainforest, where he pulled out a small wooden flute or piccolo and a bongo, started out as a provocative cacophony and resolved into a beautiful melody, Machado switching smoothly to guitar.

The crowd gave him two standing ovations. No wonder. Tell your friends across the country to catch this guy. But remember, after the show, he heads for the next town, leaving you heartbroken.

As for Honduras's Aurelio Martinez, well, he had me at hello.

His voice was more of an alto with a range up to a soprano. Often he sang and played like Malian -and may he rest in peace - Ali Farka Touré. The West African blues bases were apparent in Martinez's tunes, but so too, obviously, were the Latin American roots.

Martinez sang, played guitar (more in rapid flourishes than Machado) and danced (twirling, twirling, always twirling) with non-stop energy.

While the crowd sat and swayed for Machado, many danced for Martinez, populating the front of the stage. Two young girls were invited up and danced with equal fervour and surprising skill. Martinez taught them a few of his home country's moves. It was sweet.

Martinez's band was brilliant. Decked out in flag-adorned bandanas and flash athletic gear, there were two percussionists, one playing the low, low end, while the other took the higher notes. Martinez himself would head stage right to play himself, and to lean and chat up the audience.

The bassist laid down groove after groove, while adding to the backup chorus. His chill attitude was fun to watch. Finally, the lead guitarist provided solid rhythmic playing and soloed tastefully and skillfully too.

I urge anyone with an interest in soul - not just jazz or blues - to check Martinez out and find out a little more about the Garifuna tradition in his home of Honduras. I intend to. The guy's a congressman in his country's legislature to boot. There's a great story here.

Same with the ritmos brasilieros of Celso Machado. On his latest record alone, Capivara, there are a multitude of styles - from samba grooves to the baiãos of Northern Brazil. He studies and masters forms including the West African kora and the West's classical guitar (he lived several years in Italy).

You can pick up Martinez's record at the Sam's outlet as you can Capivara and Jongo Lê.

Having these guys in Halifax - the first tim in Canada for Martinez - was a privelege and a real pleasure, even if they broke our hearts by heading to the next gig.

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