Somebodybrought a can of Progresso Pinto Beans to the 9:30 club last night. And somebody else brought a can of Libby's Deli-Style Crispy Sauerkraut. The cans sat in a small cardboard box with eight others at the feet of ticket taker, punker and social philosopher Jared Hendrickson.

The cans were for charity.

And all across the city the music that rocked the Bayou, cooled Blues Alley, moved the Kilimanjaro and bounced from wall to wall in six other clubs was for charity.

The Crosstown Charity Jam, sponsored by the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA), gathered an array of local performers last night for a simultaneous nine-club fundraiser benefiting 15 local charities.

At the 9:30 club the gate receipts and the cans were earmarked for the House of Ruth and Martha's Table. Can carriers got a $1 discount on the $5 cover charge.

"It's for a very good cause," Hendrickson said. "But still, people grouse about the ticket price or try to get in on the guest list."

At Blues Alley, whose charities included My Sister's Place and noncommercial radio station WPFW, optimism was more tangible. Empty cafe'-style chairs were hard to find, and Guitar Bill Harris, Lisa Rich, Shirley Horn and other local jazz luminaries performed without interruption. The mood was captured by Ted Gay, vice chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities: "There's the whole sense that the world is getting smaller, in a good way . . . Artists are always in a position of having to go around with their hands out, but tonight is an opportunity for them to give back."

The Bayou's designated charities were Save the Bay and the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts. But neither the charities nor the sponsor, WAMA, appeared to be the primary draw. The lines formed for the Nighthawks, a soon-to-be-disbanded group. "As a matter of fact, we don't even know what WAMA is," said one Nighthawks fan. Her companion thought it had something to do with the American Medical Association. "We're here to see the Nighthawks. You're gonna get that answer from about 95 percent of the people here," said 28-year-old Ronnie Gist.

Back around the corner at Blues Alley, Deborah Peeples, the development coordinator for My Sister's Place, was grateful that the shelter for battered women had been chosen as one of the evening's beneficiaries.

"It's wonderful, and it was unsolicited on our part," she said. And that seemed to make it even nicer.

And Gay, delighting in the evening's spirit, was predicting that this year's Crosstown Charity Jam "was just the beginning."