by Malcolm Petch
Google “jazz drummer bandleader” and you’ll probably find the likes of Buddy Rich at the top of the list. (Actually, you’ll for sure find Buddy Rich at the top of the list; I just tried it).
But Montreal’s Charlotte Cornfield will no doubt soon take over that spot here in Canada, if her progress-to-date is any indication. Even while working on her jazz drumming degree (BFA in Jazz studies, Concordia, grad 2010) Charlotte found the time to write and record a couple of EPs: It’s Like That Here and Collage Light. And once she had her drumming degree under her belt, Cornfield hit the road locking down the beat for acts such as Bent By Elephants, Takk, Panoramic & True and others.
If you’ve spent any time listening to CBC Radio, or if you’ve heard much campus radio across the country, you’re probably familiar with Charlotte Cornfield’s name – and that familiarity probably doesn’t arise from Cornfield’s time in the jazz-drummer field. Those two EPs she recorded have received countless plays and have enjoyed continued popularity on Canadian and American airwaves. And in adding to that popularity, Cornfield did a 45-stop tour in 2009 in support of her two EPs. (Think about that: 45 stops! That’s a month-and-a-half’s worth of playing every single night! And with a travel day here and there plus breaks, that probably adds up to two solid months of being on the road. And she was 20 years old at the time).
That growing popularity was one of the reasons Cornfield stepped back from her percussion path in the autumn of 2010 to sequester herself in the studio for four months of tracking a full-length album. Two Horses is due out ‘sometime in 2011’, according to early press releases.
Growing popularity was not the only reason for Cornfield’s desire to complete this album, however. In an interview posted in Saskatoon’s Planet S magazine on July 28, Cornfield says that hard work is a built-in philosophy that drives her unceasingly forward.
“I’m always racing against time,” she says. “I think, ‘Oh man, I’m 22 and when Joni Mitchell was 22 she was doing so much more.’ My work ethic always leads me to believe that what I do is never enough, and I’m always looking for the next thing. I feel really good about where I am, but there’s always so much more to do and so many more songs to be written.”
Speaking of which, Joni Mitchell is an obvious influence on Cornfield, at least according to some of the melodies she puts out. There’s even a hint of young Joni in Cornfield’s lyrical voice.
But great songwriting and the ability to perform her music well is not the whole story for Charlotte Cornfield, either. She seems to be one of those people blessed with the uncanny ability to know what to do on the business side of things, too. Rather than scheduling a CD release party while she was still working on her newest album, as some indies are wont to do (leaving them scrambling to fulfill their own timeline, and all-too-often compromising on some aspect of the recording, design and/or manufacturing aspect of their project as a result), Cornfield has been sitting on her finished album for quite a while, waiting until the “time is right” for the full album to see the light of day.
She isn’t sitting on her hands in the meantime, though. Cornfield’s appearance at Streaming Café on August 13th is part of a Western Canada tour she’s been putting together for some time now. And in a savvy demonstration of her understanding of the business side of this, uh, business, Cornfield told us that she has just released two of the tracks from her new album on iTunes, and she’ll be doing a major push for them during this time. “We’ll be doing a ton of promo for the show,” she says.
Cornfield is clearly a good drummer: her degree and the list of bands she supports as a percussionist makes that evident. And her current tour shows that she is a worthy band leader as well, with a number of festival dates listed where she’ll be playing with a full band, on top of the acoustic solo or duo shows she’ll be doing like the one at Streaming Café. With a work ethic like she’s described, it isn’t likely Cornfield will be slowing down anytime soon, either, so watch out, Mr. Buddy Rich, wherever you are: your Google listing may have to take a back seat to Charlotte Cornfield sooner rather than later.
Do yourself a favour: check out Charlotte Cornfield’s MySpace page and listen to her music. Buy one of her new tracks or an EP on iTunes. And then mark August 13th in your calendar so you don’t miss her show here in Kelowna at Streaming Café. You’ll be glad you set the time aside. As always, you can connect with Charlotte online at streamingcafe.net, listening to her music and watching her perform live in real-time, and even asking her questions if you’re unable to be here in person.
CHARLOTTE CORNFIELD - Arc Blues from Mitch Fillion (southernsouls.ca) on Vimeo.