While everyone else is getting on with their Christmas shopping, those of us who feel the spontaneous improvisatory spirit of jazz is a suitable philosophy for life in general will have decided that we can do all that materialistic stuff later – on Christmas eve, even.

In the meantime, there is the music to follow, and this week the place to start is the Symphony Hall foyer bar on Friday evening. It might start at 6pm or 7pm, depending on which website you look at, so I would get there at the usual Rush Hour Blues time of 5.30pm, just to be safe.

There, singer Cleveland Watkiss will be doing all kind of wild things with his voice, loops and samples, and also performing in his new band CWT – a trio with bassist Mark Hodgson and Empirical’s drummer Shaney Forbes.

It’s free.

Then it’s a dash across to the Town Hall where the BBC Big Band and vocalist Matthew Ford are doing swinging things with seasonal favourites like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Winter Wonderland and Let It Snow. I’m a bit of a sucker for the idea of jazzy Christmas songs – it smacks of Kodachrome America in the late ‘50s, everyone dressed like slick Madmen and women, and Santa beaming down in his full Coca-Cola glory.

Jiggs Whigham will be leading the celebrations, and tickets are available from 0121 780 3333 or at thsh.co.uk


On Saturday it’s back to the SH bar for some soothing lunchtime jazz from Andy Hamilton & The Blue Notes. They groove from 12.30pm and this one is also free.

If you get really laid back, who knows, you might be there all afternoon, building up the energy for the short walk back to the Town Hall for the grand dame of Havana, the great Omara Portuondo.

The only woman in the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara has made consistently fine albums ever since she re-emerged after all those years unappreciated and unemployed.

She has a very classy disc out called Gracias, on the World Village label, to celebrate her 60th anniversary in the business, and although the guests on that disc won’t be with her (they include Richard Bona, Chico Buarque and Chucho Valdes), she has impeccable taste in band members. It starts at 7.30pm and again, book at thsh.co.uk


On Sunday you can take in a big band battle in Witton (The Barn in Brookvale Road to be precise) or go for a Latin-flavoured sextet down in Stratford.

The big bands are Garry Allcock’s All-Stars who go up against MYJO, it’s at 7.30pm and you can find out more on 0121 475 7524 or 01902 441600.

Down at the White Swan, Stratford Jazz presents the Quiver Sextet, led by Case Greene on sax and flute. It starts at 8pm and there is more info on stratfordjazz.org.uk or 01789 298607.