By Radim McCue Published December 28, 2009
The Chicago Tribune yesterday announced its outstanding Chicagoans of the Year, recognizing their achievements in ten arts and culture fields. Dana Hall, the drummer, composer, and educator, was the top Jazz Chicagoan, and the only professional musician selected.
"I am honored and humbled by this exciting announcement," says the 40-year-old Hall, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Philadelphia, and has called Chicago his home since 1994. "Chicago is and has historically been an inspiring, significant, and culturally rich city for the visual, performing, and environmental design arts, and to be recognized in this fashion by those writers and critics who are actively and intently covering these areas on a daily basis is extremely gratifying to me. And to be included in a list of honorees as accomplished and noteworthy as those recognized this year makes this honor even more special to me. This has been an incredible year for me as an artist, and I can't think of a better way to ring in the New Year than being named a 2009 Chicagoan of the Year."
Hall, who has been in demand as a sideman for nearly two decades, working with major names in jazz such as Joe Henderson, Branford Marsalis, Maria Schneider, Benny Golson, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and Kenny Barron, made his recording debut as a leader in November 2009 with Into the Light (Origin Records). On the CD, he chose to feature his working band, an all-star quintet comprised of trumpeter Terell Stafford, saxophonist Tim Warfield Jr., pianist Bruce Barth, and bassist Rodney Whitaker.
Immediately upon its release, Into the Light was the most added and highest-debuting new CD on the mainstream and college jazz charts; within a month, it was #8 on the JazzWeek Top 50 and #3 on the College Music Journal Top 40 Jazz charts. The CD is in heavy rotation on all major jazz stations around the U.S., as well as on the nationally syndicated programs "Jazz With Bob Parlocha" and "Jazz After Hours" with Jim Wilke.
Into the Light has appeared on best-of-2009 lists by the Chicago Tribune's Howard Reich ("The recording illuminates Hall's expressive breadth as a composer and dynamism as a leader") and the Detroit Free Press's Mark Stryker ("[Hall] leads a whip-smart quintet... through a broad swath of the mainstream -- swinging, stretching, signifying").
Although Hall frequently performs in Chicago as both a sideman and leader, he's especially looking forward to a hometown CD release event at the Green Mill February 5th and 6th with the same musicians heard on Into the Light. They'll also be appearing in Cincinnati, at the Blue Wisp (1/29-30), with several East and West Coast bookings to be scheduled in the spring.