Dana Hall is such a respected musician and educator on the Chicago (and NYC) scene that it is hard to believe that his debut album has only recently been released by Origin Records. Into the Light presents a mature and thoughtful drummer/composer and his top-notch quintet performing songs that blend great classic sounds from the 1960s with modern directions. Hall provides most of the compositions and says he looked at drummer/band leaders like Victor Lewis, Tain Watts, Max Roach and Billy Higgins as role models who write their music with the talents of the band members in mind. In this he succeeds greatly - the band features trumpet star Terell Stafford, saxophonist Tim Warfield, Jr. on tenor and soprano, bassist Rodney Whitaker and pianist Bruce Barth - all of whom have played together for many years. Bandleader Hall gives the players plenty of room to shine and everyone comes through with memorable work. Stafford does his usual stellar work, Whitaker rips off some of the best bass solos I've heard this year, while "Tough Young Tenor" Warfield shows why he has been the choice of Nicolas Payton and Stafford as longtime members of each trumpeters' band. Barth is a true surprise - well known in New York, he may be an unfamiliar name here in Chicago - but not for long as his solos are utterly engaging. Of course, Hall's drumming centers everything and he plays with his famous energy and abandon, without overplaying. Stylistically the songs move from the opening cover of Herbie Hancock's "I Have a Dream" through mid-tempo, swinging pieces ("Conversion Song," "The Path to Love"), a ballad ('Orchids"), the McCoy Tyner-inspired 'Black Mountain" to the free jazz/ Herbie suite "Jabali.' Whitaker adds a lovely and understated piece "For Rockelle," while Warfield's burner "Tin Soldier" ends the album on a hard bop high note, complete with a satisfying Hall solo.