b. 1971, London, England. Watkis’ early influences on piano included Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Kelly, Mulgrew Miller, Bud Powell and McCoy Tyner. He began playing piano professionally in 1987 and two years later studied at Berklee College Of Music. Fellow students there and at Harvard University with whom he sometimes played included Antonio Hart, Lalah Hathaway, Joshua Redman and Mark Turner. Back in the UK he soon became an in-demand pianist and composer and in the years since then has worked with musicians resident in and visiting London. Among these have been Gary Bartz, Kenny Garrett, Eddie Henderson, Tony Kofi, Courtney Pine, Ernest Ranglin, Jean Toussaint and Stanley Turrentine. Watkis was also a founding member of Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors and Nu Troop. His reputation spread through engagements at leading London venues and tours of the UK. During these tours he also held workshops at numerous schools. In 1998 he played piano and arranged for a European tour of the stage show, Dancing & Singing The Blues.
Watkis is the younger brother of singer Cleveland Watkiss and the spelling of their surname deliberately varied. He has continued to work in the USA, in particular in New York City, which is where his 2007 debut was recorded with a group including Darren Barrett (trumpet), Steve Wilson (saxophone) Reuben Rogers (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums) He composes much of his repertoire, which includes ‘Apartment 17’, ‘Fuchsia Song’, ‘Second Chance Encounters’, ‘Summer Evening Dream’, ‘What It Is Was’ and ‘Khadijah’s Peace’. Watkis has also worked in New York with Winard Harper and James Spaulding. In addition to his club and studio work, Watkis has also composed and played for films, radio and television. His film work includes De-Lovely (2004), in which he accompanied Natalie Cole and Elvis Costello.