Cleveland Watkiss - The Official Website


Great Jamaican Songboo

It is well known that Jamaica has a long history of pioneering musical sounds - from Mento, Ska, Reggae, Dub, Roots, Hiphop, Jungle/DnB, and way beyond with many of it's internationally celebrated musicians spawning from that great musical institution (The Alpha Boys School) under the tutelage of (The Nun) Sister Mary Ignatius Davis.


Record labels and producers like Studio One, Coxsone Dodd, TuffGong, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and King Tubby were all highly Influential in the development of Jamaican Music along with musicians, singers and performers like Don Drummond, Ernest Ranglin, Barratt Brothers, Jackie Mittoo, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Alton Elis, Ken Booth, The Wailers, Millie Small, Marcia Griffith, Dawn Penn, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Burnin Spear, Jonny Osbourne and many many others.


Songs that tell poignant stories, about the times,and the culture, with that deep and infectious original laid back drum and bass rhythm.


"CWQ": The Cleveland Watkiss Quartet

Building on the formidable strength and range of his solo performances with VocalSuite, Cleveland Watkiss has brought together three of the foremost musicians on the British jazz scene - Larry Bartley (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums) and Jonathan Gee (Piano) - to form a quartet that showcases his extraordinary vocal talent. 


Dubbed the "Sonny Rollins of the human voice" (Time Out), Cleveland's rare ability to improvise like any instrument makes him a true frontman, but he is also able to incorporate his sound melodically, harmonically and rhythmically with bass and drums in a way that both complements and extends the musical dimensions of the conventional jazz quartet format.


?Vocalist, Actor, Composer and Activist, Cleveland Watkiss has assembled some of the most prolific musicians, currently active on the UK music scene.


Cleveland (voice & electronics) is joined by Orphy Robinson (vibes & electronics), Pat Thomas (piano & electronics), Neil Charles (bass), Mark Sanders (drums). The band explores his very open approach to Improvisation/spontaneous composition.


What you will hear is their lived experiences, the "Black British Music Experience". A sonic blend, that could only come from the worlds most cosmopolitan epicentre, that is the UK.

"Cleveland Watkiss was an undisputed star of 2017 Sopot Jazz Festival. He performed with UK All Stars Band. It was insane, authentic, blatantly truthful commentary on our times". - JazzPress review.


"Wasn't he awesome? What it takes us six to do he does all by himself." Take 6


Using a breathtaking vocal range that makes seamless links between musical cultures, three times Wire/Guardian award-winning vocalist Cleveland Watkiss blends improvisation/counterpoint harmony, electronics, breakbeat loops and basslines (all live and from his mouth) to stunning effect, creating a unique, orchestral vocal soundscape.


VocalSuite is an elusive a capella vocal improvisation performance that uses the atmosphere of venue, mood and interactivity of audience to present a performance of the moment; seamless links between musical cultures from Africa to Europe go together to create human vocal soundscapes.

VocalSuite fuses voice and technology, using real-time looping to create live compositions. No two performances are ever the same. Using technology to record, then layer the voice, an orchestral piece is created that is composed right before the audience. Sometimes Cleveland uses the audience as contributors to the piece, and he always reflects the mood and ambience of the space. The collaborations he has made reflect the diversity of the musical styles in the pieces, ranging from classical to African rhythm, to jazz and choral.




Award-winning HMDT commission Trench Brothers brings the First World War to life for students through the experiences and personal stories of Indian Army, British West Indies Regiment and black British Soldiers. It commemorates their contributions using puppetry, music, artefacts and cross-curricular learning and culminates in performances of a new music theatre work by composers Julian Joseph and Richard Taylor and librettist Tertia Sefton-Green, enabling students to develop a creative, artistic response to the stories and immortalise the deeds of these forgotten soldiers.






Commissioned by the Hackney Music Development Trust, Shadowball is a jazz opera about the US Negro Baseball Leagues which involves young people in performance activities to promote interest in the game whilst addressing issues of racism and dIscrimination.


'Shadow Ball' refers to a common pre-game feature during which Negro League players warmed up by staging mock games with an imaginary ball. Though unintended, this pantomime was an apt metaphor for the exclusion of Blacks from Major League play in America for over 60 years.


Using the stories of Black Baseball players in the 1930s-40s, and their jazz compatriots who often suffered similar racial prejudice, Shadowball is designed to inspire young people to achieve despite the odds.




Commissioned by the City of London Corporation for the 2007 City of London Festival to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first parliamentary bill to abolish slavery, Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807 by Julian Joseph (music) and Mike Phillips (libretto), tells the remarkable story of black Polish-born violin prodigy George Bridgetower.


Cleveland Watkiss plays Bridgetower. Born in 1778 to an Abyssinian ex-slave, he came to London in 1789 to escape the French Revolution, where he performed to King George III and the Prince Regent, who in 1791 became his patron. Bridgetower studied with Haydn and was a great friend of Beethoven, with whom he gave the first performance of what was to be later named his Kreutzer Sonata, which Beethoven initially dedicated to him. Acclaimed throughout Britain and Europe, Bridgetower gave over fifty concerts between 1789 and 1799 and was for fourteen years the star of the Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion Orchestra. He died in obscurity in 1860.

Julian Joseph's score weaves a highly textured tapestry out of the threads of jazz, gospel, blues and 18th-century classical music. It's performed by a ten piece jazz band including trumpeter Russell Bennett, violinist Christian Garrick, saxophonist Steve Williamson and drummer Mark Mondesir along with LSO St Luke's Community Choir.