It's a common question in this city: How long do you have to live here to be able to call yourself a "Chicagoan"? By almost any standard, jazz artist Dana Hall has earned the right, despite spending his formative years on the East Coast. The 40-year-old drummer and composer has paid dues in clubs across the city since the mid-'90s, crossing paths with everyone from Branford Marsalis to Joe Henderson along the way. Last year, the longtime supporting player made his debut as a bandleader with the much-praised Into the Light. Hall recently took some time to answer questions about his still-evolving career - and his adopted home.
Describe your sound in 140 characters or less. My sound on the drums is passionate, dynamic, encircling, probing, and informed by the great masters who have and continue to inspire me.
Where and when was your first show - and what was it like? My first performance in Chicago was at The Bop Shop, a club that is now closed but was just off the corner of Wood St. on Division. I was performing with trumpeter Rex Richardson, July 1993 on a Friday night (maybe the 16th?). I was a last-minute substitute for drummer Michael Raynor, who, having just met me three nights earlier at a jam session at the New Apartment Lounge, asked me to cover for him. I was not a resident of the city, but had a suit, drums, cab fare, and desire. I still do. The show went well and I still have it on cassette tape, recorded on my old Walkman (remember those?). We played mostly standards and some of Rex, saxophonist Mike Pendowski, and pianist Sam Stryke's compositions. Nick Tountas was the bassist on the gig and rounded out the quintet. That was my first full Chicago performance. The two songs I played at the New Apartment Lounge that week with Von Freeman were my very first notes played in Chicago.
What Chicago artist/band should we interview next and why? How about Greg Ward II? Though he has recently began splitting his time between Chicago and New York, his presence here of late has been extremely vital and regular. One would think he never left! He leads a number of ensembles locally, nationally, and internationally, and contributes mightily to those of others here and in New York. He plays inside and outside and thinks broadly and globally about music. Definitely worth checking out.