Born in the East End of London, virtuoso vocalist, actor and composer. At age 16, he won twice in a local singing talent competition, hosted by “FatMan” of FatMan Sound System (North East London Based Roots, Reggae & Dub Sound System). Cleveland Watkiss studied the voice at the London School of Singing with opera coach Arnold Rose and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Cleveland 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.
Cleveland 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 worlds greatest female jazz vocalists Cassandra Wilson and Abbey Lincoln. John Fordham, the Guardian music journalist accurately describes Cleveland as “arriving on the scene with a bang”.
His amazing vocal experiences have seen him perform with many diverse artists from around the world such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, the James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Nigel Kennedy, Carlinhos Brown, Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, the London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, the BBC Orchestra, Goldie, Cassandra Wilson, the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Sugar Minot, Talvin Singh, Bjork, Pete Townshend, the London Community Gospel Choir [LCGC] and many many more.
Cleveland is also a very keen music educator, working as a voice instructor at workshops in venues, schools, colleges and universities around the UK.
He also designed the vocal curriculum for BA students at The Weekend Arts College [WAC] in North London, and is a regular facilitator and voice coach for the Artist Development Programme [ADP] at the Hackney Empire Theatre in East London.
More recently, demonstrating great versatility, Cleveland Watkiss was cast as the starring role in Julian Joseph’s two groundbreaking Jazz operas, Bridgetower and Shadowball, to considerable acclaim.
Cleveland is an original founder member of the Jazz Warriors, and now Co-Director of Warriors International. Most recently, for his services to music Cleveland has been appointed an MBE. He has also received multiple prestigious awards and nominations, including the Ivor Novello Award for Innovation 2021 (Winner), Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2017 (Winner), Best Jazz Act at the MOBO Awards 2017 (Nominee), Best Vocalist at the London Jazz Awards 2010 (Winner), and Best Vocalist at the Guardian Jazz Awards (Winner) for three consecutive years