It's Dec. 25 and the presents have been opened, the feast has been consumed, but there is one more thing left to look forward to.

Rather than let the post-holiday blues sink in, pack up the family and go to the Coastal Jazz Association's 39th annual Christmas Jam Concert, held every year on Christmas Day.

"It is something that I look forward to every year," says Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson.

"It's camaraderie and friendly competition at the same time," adds Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame member Teddy Adams, who is organizing this year's event with CJA members Howard Paul and Mitch Hennes.

The annual event was started by Adams and the late Ben Tucker. Adams, a trombonist, was a charter member of Local 407, the first black musicians' union in Savannah, which held a Christmas Day fundraiser at a venue called The Flamingo.

Then, as now, the event began as a concert that became a jam session. House bands from the many venues where musicians played would join in.

The jam sessions would go late into the night. Adams left Savannah in 1960, returning 20 years later.

When Adams realized the concert and jam session had been discontinued, he and Tucker reinstated it. Today, it is sponsored by the Coastal Jazz Association, which also was founded by Adams and Tucker.

The concert is still a fundraiser to benefit the association's student scholarship education fund. At least two scholarships are given every year to local college music majors who are part of jazz programs.

"This year as usual, there is a planned concert for the first half," Adams says. "For the second half, it is an open jam session featuring various regional and local musicians.

"We've been criticized for doing all jazz and no Christmas music, so this will be a combination of jazz and Christmas music. The second half is an open jam session.

"Being Christmas Day, a lot of people return home," Adams says. "We have a number of kids that graduated from the Savannah Arts Academy, and the Savannah Arts Academy in the past has produced some very, very good musicians."

Adams himself has taught several of the young musicians.

"Nine have gotten master's degrees in jazz performance," he says. "At least six of those will be present on Christmas Day.

"It's going to be a treat to hear them and see what Savannah has produced. They have graduated from some of the best schools in the country."
The jam session becomes a friendly competition, Adams says.

"We have various students from various schools," he says. "They want to show each other what they have learned and what they can do,

"It's all done in friendly way. Each person is trying to outdo the other and it comes off beautifully.

"A lot of musicians come home for this," Adams says. "It starts at 5 p.m., so it gives them time for Christmas dinner before they come out for the jazz session. They know it's going to be fun."

"Many local musicians like to get together and play," says Hennes, a bass player. "We have a nice core of jazz players.

"Teddy had a long history of teaching some wonderful students, so it's also kind of a homecoming for people who are home visiting family.

"We are a not-for-profit that is trying to raise funds for scholarship funds," he says. "One of the objectives of the CJA is to fund scholarships for students heading on to college."

The timing of the concert and jam session is just right, Hennes says.

"It's right between a big afternoon meal and nighttime," he says. "When musicians get together and hang out socially, it happens to be what non-music people consider an odd time because we're all working the rest of the time."

A resident of Savannah for three years, Hennes enjoys performing with the CJA.

"I've been to every Christmas concert and performed," he says. "We have a nice crowd of folks.

"This is the one occasion we ask everybody to contribute, because CJA members usually get to attend for free. We use the money for scholarships."

Hennes is originally from Chicago.

"I'm interested in preserving tradition," he says. "I was welcomed into the community and was fortunate to get to know Ben Tucker a little before his untimely death.

"My very first night, my wife and I met some of the finest players in town who said, 'You will work if you move to town.' It's proved to be true.

"I love watching musicians play with respect for one another," Hennes says. "It fits right in with the spirit of Christmas."

Something new this year is the concert's location.

"We've got a new venue this year," Paul, a guitarist, says. "We've moved it to Savannah Station.

"One of the challenges is finding venues that work for us," he says. "This is something brand new and we're very excited to have it there."

The concert and jam session is an old Savannah musician tradition, Paul says.

"The idea was to get all the musicians together who typically worked every other day of the year and never got the opportunity to get together with fellow musicians," he says. "None of the clubs were open on Christmas day."

Paul says he is always surprised by the turnout for the event.

"I hate to think it's because people been cooped up with families, but it's a great opportunity to get everybody out of the house and enjoy some great jazz," he says. "All the proceeds go to the CJA, which supports live jazz and music education. One of the great things about this event is we welcome back the musicians who have left Savannah and worked around the country and world back onto the stage when they come to Savannah to visit families."