Even among modern drummers, who long ago shed their stereotypical role as mere timekeepers (or "guys who hang out with musicians," as the old joke goes), Dana Hall stands out. He's currently teaching jazz at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while he completes his doctorate in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, studying soul music as a product of the African diaspora. He's also anchored bands led by Ray Charles, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, and plenty others. These days Hall mainly appears with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, whose leader, trumpeter Jon Faddis, has long recognized his winning combination of big-band oomph and precise stick work--in the 90s Hall often flew to New York to play in Faddis's Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. And, despite that full schedule, he's been writing his own compositions and arranging other people's tunes for his own rarely heard quintet, which makes its Chicago debut this weekend. The front line stars two of the east coast's best just-under-the-radar hornmen: trumpeter Terell Stafford, a powerful presence in a number of working bands (including Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts, which played the Symphony Center last Friday), and tenor saxist Tim Warfield, who lights his solos with a cool fire. Hall has also imported bassist Rodney Whitaker--an especially classy player with a tone that commands attention but doesn't demand it--and rounds out the rhythm section with Chicago pianist Ron Perrillo, whose steely attack and inventive chordings fortify any group he plays in. They'll present material slated for Hall's first album as a leader, which they'll record in the spring. One of the strongest quintets you'll hear all season. See also Saturday. Fri 1/27, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.