In 1996 when the world was just getting its collective head around the Drum ‘n Bass music genre that pushed the sonic envelope and raised the bar sophistication in electronic dance music, something happened to take everything to another level. Cleveland Watkiss, three times winner of The Wire/Guardian best jazz vocalist award, was already established as the voice of Metalheadz – Goldie’s epochal Sunday sessions at the legendary Blue Note club in Hoxton. Drawing on his immersion in jazz, soul, reggae and dub, Watkiss brought the sophisticated musicality to MC’ing that Drum ‘n Bass deserved and redefined the art of the MC. Assuming the moniker “Origin”, he teamed up with American drum innovator Marque “the inna•most” Gilmore (sideman of Joe Zawinul and Roy Ayers among other jazz and world giants and acknowledged as the first drummer to genuinely perform DnB on live drum kit) to compose and record the album “23“. Joined by garage and Hip Hop DJ DJ La Rouge, from the stable that spawned the UK Garage phenomenon The Dream Team, Watkiss and Gilmore took to the road as Project 23, the first ever live Drum ‘n Bass band. I toured with them too performing bespoke designed video projections at every gig.
October 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the release of “23” and to mark the event the band re-assembled with guest artists old (saxophonist Steve Williamson and myself) and new (the godfather of UK Hip Hop, Rodney P) for what was to be an earth shattering gig at Oslo Hackney.
The concert also featured Orphy Robinson’s and Pat Thomas’ free improve project Black Top. Every Black Top performance features a special guest from improvisational music legend. It was only fitting for this gig, as we’d flown the inna•most in from Sweden, that Marque Gilmore should the guest.
And what about the work? I co-promoted (with the London International Arts Festival), produced and production managed the gig. I designed video projections across the whole event and of course performed with Project 23. With work like that who needs play?