Cleveland Watkiss

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Cleveland Watkiss
Cleveland Watkiss.jpg
Background information
Born (1959-10-21) October 21, 1959 (age 56)
Hackney, London, UK
Genres Rock music
Nu jazz
Drum and bass
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
from the BBC programme Ella in Berlin, 23 April 2013.[1]

Cleveland Watkiss is a British virtuoso vocalist, actor and composer. He was the winner of the London Jazz Awards for Best Vocalist in 2010 and was voted Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards best vocalist for three consecutive years.


Watkiss was born in Hackney, East London, to Jamaican parents, and was one of nine children.[2] He studied voice at the London School of Singing with opera coach Arnold Rose and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was also one of the co-founders of the vastly influential Jazz Warriors big band. His vocals can be heard on their debut album, Out of Many People, which won a video award in Japan. Watkiss was then entered for the Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards and was voted best vocalist for three consecutive years, and was the opening act of choice for two of the world's greatest female jazz vocalists, Cassandra Wilson and Abbey Lincoln. The Guardian music journalist John Fordham described Cleveland as "arriving on the scene with a bang”.

Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Düsseldorf Symphonic Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis & JALO, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, Lepaja Symphonic Orchestra, Carlinhos Brown, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALO), Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, Bobby McFerrin, The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, Goldie, Om Unit, Halogenix, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Wheeler big band, Sugar Minott, Talvin Singh, Björk, Pete Townshend, London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC), Malik & the O.G's and many more.

Watkiss is also a keen music educator, working as a voice instructor for Singup, with workshops in venues/schools, colleges and universities around the UK.

More recently, Watkiss was cast in the starring role in Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips's ground-breaking jazz operas Bridgetower and Shadowball. He has performed in many of the major concert halls, festivals and clubs around the world with "VocalSuite", a solo voice performance, and his new Quartet "CWQ", accompanied by Shaney Forbes (drums), Mark Hodgson (bass) and Marco Piccioni (guitars).


  • Blessing in Disguise. Polydor. 1991


  1. ^ "Cleveland Watkiss". Ella in Berlin. 23 April 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Biography at Womad.