Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, look out.
This Saturday at Anna Liffey’s in New Haven, you can check out and cheer on North Haven native Stephen Cusano, drummer for The Isaac Young Quartet, at the Grand Band Slam, sponsored by CTNow.com and Advocate/Weekly Newspapers.
The qualifying event was held at the Bushnell in Hartford on Sept. 12, when IYT was named 2012's Best Jazz Band in Connecticut. The band will compete against two other finalists at the Saturday concert.
Cusano is a 2010 graduate of North Haven High School and is currently a Jazz Studies major at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford. There, he said he gets to study there with some of the greatest jazz musicians in New York City.
“To study with them has been such an honor, to learn, to pick their brain,” he said. “The students and the kids are great too.”
Fellow North Haven local musician, Nick D’Errico, has been a big inspiration to Cusano, he said.
“He plays, performs, teaches, does substitute teaching, he does everything,” Cusano said, which mirrors his own goals of teaching while playing as much as possible.
In fact, Cusano started taking drumming seriously when he met D’Errico.
“He’s the one that really made my playing go up,” said Cusano.
Cusano joined IYQ about two years ago, playing New York, Boston, and Vermont with the band. He also and plays in a 60s and 70s pop/funk cover band, Kaya Massive.
But live jazz is hard to find locally, he said.
“As far as local clubs, I go to Café Nine, Firehouse 12,” he said, “those are the two main places that actually have jazz.”
Cusano performed a Give Back Concert fundraiser as part of the North Haven Under the Stars Concert Series on June 19 to raise money for the NHHS music program, which was able to buy a drum set with the funds.