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Danny Kusz named one of the hippest jazz cats in Minneapolis by Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine while in his early 20s, had the good fortune of recording his debut EP Lost In The Groove with renowned Twin Cities keyboardist Ricky Peterson, best known as David Sanborns musical director for 30 years. The project scored some local airplay and earned the multi-talented horn player numerous accolades, including two L.A. Music Award wins for Best Jazz Single and Best Nu-Jazz Artist, and several Minnesota Music Awards nominations including Best Horn Player, Jazz Recording of the Year and Jazz Group/Artist of the Year.
Despite his initial success, and a slate of headlining gigs and festival performances to support it, Kusz ultimately stepped aside for a few years. While working steadily as a sideman with some of the top musicians in the region, he began developing a fresh sound that stood apart not only from the vibe of his first album, but other indie urban jazz up and comers as well. Creating an explosive hybrid of his major alto influence, David Sanborn and his favorite funk-rocker, Minneapolis own legendary Prince, Kusz worked with an outside producer (Aaron Cosgrove, frontman for the longtime pop/R&B/rock band The New Congress) for the first time to create a dynamic new vibe captured by the 13-track albums provocative title SEXY.FUNK::VELVET.JAZZ. Kusz had performed live over the years with The New Congress many times, and felt that Cosgrove and the groups keyboardist Russ King were the perfect sonic architects to help bring his vision of a fresh, youthful approach to urban jazz/funk to life.
Kusz, whose versatility has led him to perform with everyone from Eric Leeds and Joey DeFrancesco to Root City, and Marcus Millers saxman Alex Han, felt that Cosgrove has always been a musical genius when it came to writing and production and I wanted to collaborate with him to create a different sound that would stand out. The saxophonist, whose powerful alto is the emotional centerpiece of each song, enjoyed the process of writing the melodies to the groove tracks and synth parts that Cosgrove sent him. He took me out of my comfort zone and helped me open my mind to work with unique sounds that inspired me to dig deeper as a player and composer, he says. I love the way it came out, and the title really captures all the elements that make it so much fun to work on and now listen to. Im looking forward to getting out there and playing gigs under my own name again. Nothing tops being onstage performing for people who have come to hear your music live.
Growing up in the Twin Cities area where he was able to watch some of the top performers in jazz and funk, Kusz realized early what it takes to put on a great live show that can move crowds to become a part of the experience. Kuszs energetic stage presence and interaction with his close nit band shows how fun and funky it can get when theres a collective passion to entertain. Full of positive energy and a great sense of style, Kusz and his band love to connect with fans and often times youll find him out in the crowd or maybe even on top of a table all the while looking sharp in a three piece suit!
Kuszs initial popularity after the release of Lost In The Groove led to several prominent festival dates, opening for and performing with several well known artists and has headlined numerous gigs of his own around town, and played frequently with top local artists like the Root City Band, who had a multi-year residency at the popular restaurant and bar Glueks. Kusz opened for guitar great Stanley Jordan and performed several Michael Jackson tribute concerts with Stokley Williams from Mint Condition. In addition to Jordan, he has opened for national artists such as Greg Adams, Slide Hampton, Morris Day & The Time and Anthony David.
NOTABLE LIVE PERFORMANCES
Burnsville Jazz Festival in Burnsville, MN (opened for Greg Adams)
Grand Marais Jazz Festival Grand Marais, MN (official after party)
Jazz 88.5 Winter Jazz Fest Saint Paul, MN (opened for Slide Hampton)
Rossi's Blue Star Room - Minneapolis, MN (opened for Stanley Jordan)
The Hot Summer Jazz Festival - Minneapolis, MN (headlined two years in a row)
The Dakota Jazz Club - Minneapolis, MN (headlined)
Art & All That Jazz Festival - Burnsville, MN
Little Apple Jazz Festival - Manhattan, KS (headliner)
The Fine Line - Minneapolis, MN (opened and performed with Anthony David)
The MN Zoo Concert Series - Apple Valley, MN (opened for Morris Day & The Time)
The Fine Line - Minneapolis, MN (performed with Maya Azucena)
The Dakota Jazz Club - Minneapolis, MN (performed with N' Dambi)