Who is Cleveland Watkiss?
'Best Male Jazz Singer in Britain' - Evening Standard
Cleveland Watkiss MBE is a truly inspirational figure in UK music, who’s impact and legacy is felt strongly across an extremely broad spectrum of musical genres. In the jazz scene, he is known as one of the co-founders of the hugely influential Jazz Warriors, as well as his work with the pianist and composer Julian Joseph and as a much-respected solo artist, regularly performing at leading jazz venues both in the UK and internationally. As a drum and bass vocalist and MC, Watkiss became the voice of Goldie’s legendary Metalheadz label nights at The Blue Note, a relationship that would lead to residencies and guest MC duties at some of the world’s biggest and best dance music events. There genuinely is no other musician who has made a similar contribution or embarked on such a unique journey throughout their career as Cleveland Watkiss – achieving this by trusting instincts and refusing to be defined, pigeon-holed or to ‘fit the mould’. Now Cleveland returns with a project that is very much close to his heart – a roots / reggae orientated project, interpreted and presented in a way in which only an artist of the highest quality with such extensive musical knowledge and experience could ever create.
Here is what Cleveland says about the project:
"With both my parents being from Jamaica and arriving in the UK during the 50’s as part of the Windrush generation, ‘The Great Jamaican Songbook’ is a narrative I have been aiming for most of my career. With this undertaking, I’m returning to my roots with the intention to fully celebrate Jamaican music heritage to remind people of the richness and the interconnection of Caribbean music and lifestyle culture in the UK over the last 50/60 years.
The idea for this project has been lingering with me for many years, and finally came together in 2018. After a period of about 7months of song selection and rehearsals with a band all with a UK/Jamaican heritage, we made our sold-out debut at The Crypt in South London.
This music we play and sing is loved in the UK and brings people together across the generational divide like no other. After all my experimenting with genres, it is time to connect the dots and share my real joy and passion through natural symbiosis in the unique way that reggae/ dub/ roots music is simulated into so much of our society and culture."
In his Great Jamaican Songbook, Cleveland brings songs to audiences that tell poignant stories about the times and the culture, with that deep and infectious original laid back drum and bass rhythm.
Included in the set are
If I don’t have you - Gregory Isaacs Smiling Face - Dennis Brown Curly Locks - Junior Byles Declaration of Rights - Johnny Clarke Humanity - Prince Lincoln Red Green & Gold - Burning Spear
‘A hard-hitting performance that tapped deep into roots Reggae’
‘From the bone-shaking power of Fatman Sound System to the sweet-toned vocals of 1970s reggae greats such as Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and Delroy Wilson, reggae is an integral part of Watkiss’ musical DNA, and the Songbook pays fulsome homage both to the music’s golden period and to his own Jamaican roots.’
‘An icon of UK jazz’
The musicians on this project who will be part of the recording and the tour, are all musicians Cleveland Watkiss has a long history of collaborations with:
Recording & Tour
CW: "My artistic dream is to take this music to audiences in the UK and abroad, and to document it through recording; I believe that these songs should be framed and respected in the way the cannon of the ‘Great American Songbook’ has been."
Our current focus is on recording the material in the studio during the summer, and releasing the album and taking this music on tour in October 2021:
23 October Whitby Musicport Festival 25 October Brighton, Komedia 27 October Glasgow, Oran Mor 28 October Manchester, Band on the Wall 29 October Leeds, Opera North (Howard Assembly Room) 30 October Birmingham, MAC 31 October London, EartH Theatre
Releasing an album is a costly business - and every creative involved must be paid fairly for their time, skills and expertise. At a time where people are struggling through the pandemic, your generosity means so much. Transparency about where the money will go is important. I am looking to raise a total of £8,400 to cover the musicians fees, studio hire, mixing, mastering and pressing costs, and printing artwork. Here's how it breaks down:
We will be recording at Abbey Road Studios in August and looking to release the album mid October 2021 in time for the start of the UK tour.
You can choose from a range of rewards on the right as a big THANK YOU for your support!
Pre-ordering the album - either as a CD or as a digital download code - is a simple and effective way to get involved. Do have a look through the other rewards I have on offer as well, including your name in the album, tickets to one of the concerts, VIP passes to come backstage and meet the whole band personally, and a visit to the studio on the day of the recording.
You can also just find the donate button at the top and give this way.
Other Ways You Can Support Me
If you aren't able to financially contribute, I totally understand! Times are hard. You can still help out enormously by sharing my crowdfunder link to your social media, and sharing it with people you think might be interested! Don't forget to tag Cleveland! @CleveWatkiss on Twitter, @ClevelandWatkiss on Facebook and @cleveland_watkiss on Instagram. www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cleveland-watkiss-great-jamaican-songbook