Forget the local elections - this is the one that matters. It's the Rush Hour Blues poll punters' poll that decides which band that has played the regular Friday evening sessions at the Symphony Hall Bar, should be called back and crowned band of the year.

In its first year the Rush Hour Blues award went to trumpeter Bryan Corbett and his band; this time it's Sara Colman.

Sara - singer, pianist, teacher - is one of the hardest working musicians in Birmingham and beyond. Gutsy and exceptionally versatile she sings classic jazz and modern soul with equal aplomb.

Good as she is at the piano, she's even finer when let loose at the front of the stage, as she was a few years back as a Jerwood Rising Star at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Get to see her with her Quintet from 5.30pm on Friday, arrive early if you want a seat, and don't forget, these sessions presented by Birmingham Jazz in association with Symphony Hall, are free.

* If singers are your thing, it's over to Coventry on Saturday evening to hear Julia Biel, part of the very active North London scene which calls itself the F-ire Collective.

For this Jazz Coventry gig at the Warwick Arts Centre Studio, she is joined by guitarist and fellow composer Jonny Phillips and a band which also features the woodwinds of Idris Rahman and the cello of Ben Davis.

Biel has a compelling emotional quality to her voice that has drawn comparisons with Bjork and Thom Yorke, so be prepared to have your heartstrings twanged.

The Julia Biel band are on at 8.30pm, it's £10 to get in and you can book on 024 7652 4524 or at

* Finally, the Indo Jazz season of concerts presented by Birmingham Jazz and Sampad continues at the mac in Cannon Hill Park

On Saturday evening saxophonist Martin Speake joins Dharambir Singh on sitar and Sarvar Sabri on tabla for some improvisational experiments taking North Indian ragas as their starting point.

Of all the jazz fusion experiments of the past, the one with Indian classical music and musicians, as exemplified by John McLaughlin's work with Shakti, has seemed the most lasting, so it's gratifying that the Indo-jazz fusion is continuing and fitting that Birmingham should play a strong part in it.

Saturday's concert is in the mac Theatre at 8pm, entrance is £10 and tickets can be booked on 0121 440 3838 or online at

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