Perhaps best known as an original member, alongside Courtney Pine, of the extraordinarily influential Jazz Warriors (appearing on the Warriors' only album, 1987's Out of Many One People), Cleveland Watkiss was, for three years running, voted best vocalist in The Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards; he also made an iconic cover star for a 1989 edition of The Face style magazine.
Cleveland has always embraced technology and, as a vocal explorer, he's been involved in many forward-thinking collaborations. In the early 1990s, he formed drum'n'bass trio, Project 23 with American drummer Marque Gilmore, and UK garage pioneer DJ Le Rouge, releasing one album, 23. He also co-founded Club 21st Century, an interactive live/web-based technology music project, with HyperJAM director and multimedia artist Derek Richards. In 1995, Cleveland was invited by Goldie to provide vocals on the ballad Adrift from the MetalHeadz's album, Timeless. He then went on to spend two years as the original vocalist/MC and DJ at Hoxton's Blue Note club for the MetalHeadz Sunday Sessions, as well as at multi-percussionist Talvin Singh's regular Anokha nights. Cleveland also co-wrote Traveller, a track on Talvin's Mercury Prize winning album, OK.
Cleveland's adaptability is also evident in the way he's able to switch effortlessly between musical genres and settings - from reggae, lover's rock, funk and gospel to jazz via rock, drum'n'bass and jungle. Throughout his career, he's lent his talents/collaborated with artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Branford Marsalis, Art Blakey, Stevie Wonder, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cassandra Wilson, Tunde Jegede, Patife, London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, Bjork, London Community Gospel Choir, and many more; he also toured the States with The Who, and has been involved with various Pete Townshend side projects.
Cleveland released two albums on Polydor: Green Chimneys in 1989, and Blessings in Disguise in 1991. In 2002, he released Victory's Happy Songbook; Mutual Serenade, a duo album with pianist Nikki Yeoh, was released in 2003.