Filomena Campus & Cleveland Watkiss VOCAL DUO

The project started in 2009 during a concert at the London Riverside Studios and it has now developed into a challenging and engaging vocal performance by two internationally renowned vocalists and improvisers.

For booking and info:

Check out this article online: Filomena Campus and Cleveland Watkiss. “Inspired practice”

Inspired Practice – Get Inside Your Music


Have you become too serious about your music? Are you questioning why you are doing it or where the element of fun has gone? Well, please read on, make sure you get to then end of this Article and by that time, I promise you, you’ll remember what it was all about. I’ve written quite a lot about the benefits of free improvisation. A lot of the time, however, many musicians find this exercise one of the most confronting ways of playing their instrument. The reason is that improvisation, especially free improvisation, highlights our inner critic, which can be an uncomfortable presence in our creative activities. The more uncomfortable you are with improvisation, the more critical you may be of your music and the harder you find it to become satisfied with your creative experience.Some people consider free improvisation utter nonsense. To those people I would say that nothing would ever change in the Arts, or indeed any area of life, without taking risks and trying out “unconventional” ideas.However, free improvisation is now far from an unconventional idea and in this Article I wish to illustrate what free improvisation would look like for different instruments. One of the most famous improvisational concerts was the 1975 Köln Concert on solo piano by Keith Jarrett. Before Keith sat down at the piano, he had no idea of what he was going to play. “Jarrett arrived at the opera house late in the afternoon and tired after an exhausting long drive from Zurich, Switzerland, where he had performed a few days earlier. He had not slept well in several nights and was in pain from back problems and had to wear a brace. After trying out the substandard piano and learning a replacement instrument was not available, Jarrett nearly refused to play and Brandes (the promotor) had to convince him to perform as the concert was scheduled to begin in just a few hours. The concert took place at the unusually late hour of 11:30 PM following an earlier opera performance. This late-night time slot was the only one the administration would make available to Brandes for a jazz concert – the first one ever at the Köln Opera House. The show was completely sold out and the venue was filled to capacity with over 1400 people at a ticket price of 4 Deutsche Marks (about $5.00).Despite the obstacles, Jarrett’s performance was enthusiastically received by the audience and the subsequent recording was acclaimed by critics and became an enormous commercial success. It remains his most popular recording and continues to sell well more than 35 years after its initial release.”öln_ConcertAlthough this improvisation is based mainly on two chords, I would still say it is freely improvised because Jarrett is composing purely in the present moment without a formulaic agenda.  In other words, he is freely “channelling” music.“Jarrett opened up his heart and played whatever notes felt right at the moment. Missing from the show was overly flashy displays of instrumental prowess; instead of being found playing the perfect lick, Jarrett chose instead to get lost in the melody. He used virtuosity to advance, get this, art instead of science.” For me, this is one of the most inspiring performances I have ever heard.It illustrates a truly creative moment that can only come from an exercise of spontaneous creativity that only free improvisation can provide.   Every time I listen to this recording it is as though I am at the concert for the first time, hanging onto every note and every silence. Piano is one instrument on which really lends itself to improvisation but other instruments can be harder.I think the hardest of all is voice.This is because of all the instruments, our voice is the most personal and completely individual.  Therefore any criticism can be (and often is) interpreted as a direct criticism of the person producing that vocal.I also think people can be a lot harsher critic of vocals and vocalists.  (Perhaps this is because anyone who can talk is also a potential singer!)Here is a video of free improvisation on vocals by UK jazz vocalists Filomena Campus and Cleveland Watkiss live at Riverside Studios, London, recorded June 2009.

This is a really interesting one because it involves two people, spontaneously composing together.Not only are they confident of vocalizing what they hear and feel at the time, it seems that as the performance continues they are completely in the same space, hearing the same music.This illustrates one of the most important musical skills to nurture – that of listening.The result of these creative and listening skills is a wonderful true free improvisation performed without any fear.One of the most wonderful aspects of free improvisation is that of exploration. How often do we get to hear all the potential sounds of our instrument? I think the above vocal improvisation explored many different ways to express the human voice  (…) September 21, 2011


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.[1] 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 two of the world’s greatest female jazz vocalists, Cassandra Wilson and Abbey Lincoln. John Fordham, the Guardian music journalist, described Cleveland as “arriving on the scene with a bang”.

Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Dusseldorf Symphonic Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis & JALO, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, Lepaja Symphonic Orchestra, Carlinhos Brown, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALO), Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, Bobby McFerrin, The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, Goldie, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Wheeler big band, Sugar Minott, Talvin Singh, Björk, Pete Townshend, London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC), and many more.

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 ground-breaking jazz operas Bridgetower and Shadowball to considerable acclaim. Cleveland 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) and Mark Hodgson (bass) Marco Piccioni (guitars).

Press quotes

  • “Wasn’t he awesome? what it takes us 6 to do he does it all by himself” – Take 6
  • “Cleveland Watkiss was voted best vocalist in the wire/guardian awards three years running and there is no doubt he arrived on the scene with a bang” -Hackney Gazette
  • “Best male jazz singer in Britain” – Evening Standard
  • “Vocalist Cleveland Watkiss was imperious on an express train rendition of McLean’s ‘Appointment in Ghana’, in which his scat choruses revealed a timbral richness and phrasal trickery that had the horn players nodding in approval – Independent
  • “A possibly unique unit of voice, bass and drums, the group nevertheless manages to convey the entire jazz aesthetic by musical implication, while at the same time having all the internal spaciousness you’d expect” – JazzUK
  • “Watkiss’ larger than life stage presence and highly original scatting brought the band into the desired higher gear, bringing out great solos” – Jazzwise
  • “Every phrase oozes distinctive musicianship” – The Stage
  • “History shows that it’s Cleveland’s ability to connect the jazz tradition and the “Songbook” with ever changing sounds of the underground – from roots reggae to drum & bass – that makes him totally unique.” – Straight No Chaser. PB
  • “The trio live is such a great experience – that’s about the bravest line-up any singer can put themself in, and you played it like you lived there :o) That, my dear man, is class” – Steve Lawson
  • “Singing with just bass (Mark Hodgson) and drums (Shaney Forbes) for company is a somewhat risky business, requiring sharp ears and quick musical reflexes, but Cleveland Watkiss has always been blessed with these advantages, so is able to seize and hold an audience’s attention solely with the power and versatility of his voice – Chris Parker
  • “A jazz legend“ – Telegraph
  • “Cleveland Watkiss was simply made for the lead of Bridgetower…it could be a career high to date” – Jazzwise
  • “Watkiss has been acknowledged as one of the world’s most outstanding male jazz singers” – The Guardian