Headwaters Inspired Profile: Charlie Cooley


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The master timekeeper, riding a steady groove

Just looking at the name, Charlie Cooley, makes you think “now that’s the perfect handle for a great drummer”. And so, it is…

Cooley’s talent was obvious even in his youth. Accepted into the Humber College jazz program, he immediately stood out as one to watch. In fact, when famed trumpeter Randy Brecker hosted a jazz workshop at the college, Charlie was invited to fill the drum chair. Cooley proved that he could combine a solid, relentless groove with just the right touches of ornamentation to serve the music.

For years, Cooley has been the driving rhythmic force behind names such as Manteca, Amanda Marshall, Leonard Cohen, Anne Murray, Prairie Oyster, Jimmy Rankin, Heillig Manoeuvre and many others. Recently, he’s cut back on his touring, playing locally or being the first call for prime-time TV events such as The Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame Awards, The Juno Awards and Canada Day Celebrations from Parliament Hill.

As the drummer for the Juno Award winning Latin/jazz nonet Manteca, Cooley has played the world’s top festivals: the North Sea Jazz in the Hague, the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

For the past 25 years, Cooley has called Orangeville home. “We moved from Toronto looking for a quieter environment and good schools for our children,” said Cooley. “I also wanted a location close to the airport for when I hit the road. Living here gives me everything I need.”

Another benefit of living in the Headwaters is participating in the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival. “I love it. It’s so much fun playing with a lot of great musicians, both local and visitors playing the Festival.”

As a drummer, Cooley sees his job as providing a rhythmic foundation for the artist’s vision. “I collaborate with artists and help them visualize what the song can be. I do what I can to support the music. It gives me pleasure every time I sit down behind my kit.”