October 21, 1959 |
Hackney, London, UK
Drum and bass
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. 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 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: Courtney Pine, Stevie Wonder, Shakatak, James Taylor Quartet, Working Week, The Who, Coldcut, Lisa Stansfield, Maxi Priest, Jason Rebello, Goldie, Björk, Talvin Singh, Om Unit, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, DJ Patife, Carlinhos Brown, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, Bobby McFerrin, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Bocato Big Band, Janet Kay, Soul II Soul, Kassa Mady, Halogenix, Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Sugar Minott, London Community Gospel Choir, Malik & the O.G's and many more. He also worked with symphonic orchestras like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra among others.
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).
- Green Chimneys (Urban Jazz, 1989; Verve, 1991)
- Blessing in Disguise (Polydor, 1991)
- Victory's Happy Song (Touchdown Soundz, 2001; INFRACom!, 2002)