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Charlie Cooley - Solidity Meets Artistry


These days it’s getting increasingly difficult to spot the truly great drummers. All too frequently, excess substitutes for substance. In this crowded environment, Charlie Cooley stands proud, his pulse unshakeable, his aesthetic sense finely tuned.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Charlie took advantage of the usual school programs—stage bands, concert bands, and orchestras.  Although his skill as a soulful drummer found him work locally, Charlie became restless and relocated to Toronto. That city is the seat of the Canadian recording industry and, with its history of rhythm & blues and ethnic diversity, was a perfect fit for Charlie.

Cooley attended Humber College in 1980 and 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. Early on, Charlie proved that he could combine a solid, relentless groove with brilliant touches of ornamentation. Artists trusted Charlie because he created a firm foundation in the tradition of drummers he admired—Jeff Porcaro, John Guerin, John Bonham, Terry Clarke and Carlos Vega.

Charlie Cooley on Drums

These days it’s getting increasingly difficult to spot the truly great drummers. All too frequently, excess substitutes for substance. In this crowded environment, Charlie Cooley stands proud, his pulse unshakeable, his aesthetic sense finely tuned.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Charlie took advantage of the usual school programs—stage bands, concert bands, and orchestras.  Although his skill as a soulful drummer found him work locally, Charlie became restless and relocated to Toronto. That city is the seat of the Canadian recording industry and, with its history of rhythm & blues and ethnic diversity, was a perfect fit for Charlie.

Cooley attended Humber College in 1980 and 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. Early on, Charlie proved that he could combine a solid, relentless groove with brilliant touches of ornamentation. Artists trusted Charlie because he created a firm foundation in the tradition of drummers he admired—Jeff Porcaro, John Guerin, John Bonham, Terry Clarke and Carlos Vega.

It wasn’t long before Charlie departed the club scene for larger venues, developing a “stadium savvy”. That is, he learned how to project his unwavering groove and provocative musical ideas over hundreds of rows of seats. The seeds were sewn in 1982 when Charlie left Humber College to go on the road with British veteran blues man Long John Baldry. Shortly after that tenure, Charlie joined the pan-fusion Latin/jazz nonet Manteca, playing the world’s top festivals: the North Sea Jazz in the Hague, the Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl, the 1992 World’s Fair in Spain, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Charlie found himself at the top of the heap, in a position to accept studio and television calls, performing with the likes of Leonard Cohen. When Amanda Marshall was in her prime, Charlie was her drummer and appeared on every major television spot in America, including Rosie O’Donnell and Good Morning America. Charlie also hit the bricks with Anne Murray, Prairie Oyster, Jimmy Rankin, George Fox, The Guess Who and Sass Jordan. Nowadays, turn on prime time TV and Charlie will be visible as house drummer on the Gemini Awards, Junos, East Coast Music Awards, and Canada Day backing countless artists.

Charlie recently visited Cuba as a featured performer in the Havana Drum Festival. There he had the honor of performing an arrangement of “Manteca” with the all-star band Klimax.  In Cuba, as everywhere, musicians gravitate to Charlie’s undeniable groove.


Few drummers display such intense focus and bright moments of artistry as Charlie Cooley.


Contact Charlie


Charlie would love to hear from you. If you are interested in hiring him for a gig, or just wanting to touch base after a show, please contact him by email, phone, or by submitted a message through the online form.

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All images & content copyright © Charlie Cooley 2018

All images & content copyright ©
Charlie Cooley 2018