Chicago-based drummer Dana Hall makes his debut as a leader with Into the Light, a provocative quintet recording featuring trumpeter Terell Stafford, saxophonist Tim Warfield, Jr., pianist Bruce Barth, and bassist Rodney Whitaker.
Herbie Hancock's "I Have a Dream" opens the session with an explosive punch. Hall's uncompromising intensity makes clear exactly who is leading the date. Along with Barth's punchy Fender Rhodes comping, the drummer steers the tune through an unpredictable course of shifting grooves with dynamic intensity. Six of the disc's nine tracks are Hall originals and reflect a commitment to strong melodic statements layered on top of well structured harmonic forms. From the hard driving, soulful swing of "Conversion Song" to the breezy waltz of "Orchids" to the techno-inspired groove of the title track, Hall proves himself a capable composer, informed by an array of stylistic influence.
Stafford, Warfield, and Barth take full advantage of this musician-friendly style of writing and deliver robust solos with sparks of jaw-dropping creativity. Stand-out moments?and there are many?include Stafford's slow build on the modal-based "Black Mountain," Barth's elegant swinging on "The Path of Love," and the bombastic interplay between Warfield and Hall on the spirited "Jabali."
Whitaker is characteristically consistent throughout, establishing a solid foundation and soloing exceptionally, especially on his own colorful composition, "For Rockelle." The level of compatibility exhibited by Whitaker and Hall is incomparable and elevates the outing to the category of first-rate.Into the Light
is a strong debut for Hall, sure to illuminate his multi-faceted strengths and driving spirit.