The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the best salsa bands in the world, and the New York-based combo (led by pianist Oscar Hernandez) performs Friday at the VIP Club (202-347-7200). On Friday, the worthy local charity Hungry for Music hosts a seasonal event at the St. Elmo's Coffee Pub (703-739-9268) to raise money for music instruction in schools. The event will feature area country, folk and rock performers Dennis Jay, Fannie Zollicoffer, Mary Battiata, Ruth Logsdon, Esther Haynes and Bumpkin Pie. The Borders Books & Music at 18th and L Streets NW (202-466-4999) hosts excellent local saxman George Botts Friday evening for free. Also Friday, at Bohemian Caverns (202-299-0800), my favorite local old-school soul band, Eddie Jones & the Young Bucks, performs. One of Washington's best new rock bands, Metropolitan, performs Friday (along with Speedwell and the Sprites) at the Black Cat (202-667-7960).

The annual Soul Crackers reunion is always a party. This year's takes place Saturday at Clyde's in Chevy Chase (301-951-9600) and features singer Tommy Lepson along with Paul Bell, Spencer Hoopes, Chuck Sullivan, Ronnie Newmyer and many more familiar faces from the local rock and blues scene.

The New York-based band Tandy is one of my favorites, with frontman Mike Ferrio's engaging voice singing elliptical tales of love and loss wrapped in the sounds of country-folk-rock. They'll perform Sunday at IOTA (703-522-8340).

Wednesday is Christmas Day, and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage (202-467-4600) once again hosts its cheery "All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam" for free at 6, featuring Keter Betts, Chuck Redd, Robert Redd, Lenny Robinson, Delores Williams and Tom Williams.

On Thursday, Pieces of a Dream and Maysa play their soul-R&B-jazz blend at Zanzibar (202-554-9100).

-- Eric Brace