"Unfolding in Tempo" is a joyful celebration of the music of the jazz legend Duke Ellington and his long-time collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Harrison has hand-picked an all-star cast of British jazz musicians to interpret the compositions, each of whom brings a unique voice to the musical palette. The band features internationally recognised vocal star Cleveland Watkiss, whose credits include, Stevie Wonder, The Who and many more, as well as MOBO nominee David Lyttle and Steinway artist Robert Mitchell. Together the group create stunning interpretations of both popular and lesser-known masterpieces, including Solitude, The Intimacy of The Blues and Take the 'A' Train.
Reimagining the work of a master is a daunting task for any artist, but Harrison has embraced this challenge head on, allowing the personalities of the musicians in his band to come to the fore;
"Like all jazz musicians I grew up listening to Ellington. In preparing for this project, I spent a long time studying as much of his music as possible. It’s very intimidating to try to develop music that already has such a strong history and identity. I haven’t tried to reinvent the music, I’m trying to capture the feeling behind Duke’s songs, what they’re about, what they mean to me, and build a performance on that."
The multi-award-winning vocalist Cleveland Watkiss is no stranger to the music of Ellington either, having performed it with a huge range of artists and ensembles across his career;
"Duke Ellington is the daddy of our music. I’ve performed his work many times, but in this setting I can explore his music with a freedom I’ve never had before. When the music starts, anything can happen!"
The result of this on-stage spontaneity, is a live album that remains faithful to the roots of Ellington’s music, but strives to challenge and develop the master’s work in an eccentric style all its own.
Tom Harrison: For alto saxophonist/composer Tom Harrison, the art of jazz is far more than mastery of the instrument, fluency in the repertoire and respect for the tradition. For Tom, the real undertaking is to connect with that which inspired the immortals of jazz, and to cultivate it within his own work. Since graduating from the renowned Trinity College of Music in 2012, Tom Harrison has performed or recorded with a host of internationally recognised jazz musicians, including Terrell Stafford, Jason Rebello, Michael Buckley and Jean Toussaint, as well as commercial artists such as Heather Small, M-People, Talib Kweli and The Fall. His debut album was well received by the media, described as “impressive” by Jazzwise and “a strong calling card” by All About Jazz.
Cleveland Watkiss: Featuring prominently in the group is internationally renowned vocalist Cleveland Watkiss. Described by The Evening Standard as “The best male vocalist in Britain,” Cleveland Watkiss won the London Jazz Award 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. Watkiss was 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. Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis & JALO, Bob Dylan, Art Blakey, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder and many more.
Robert Mitchell: In the early 90s, Robert Mitchell began to emerge as an important member of the London scene with two groups Quite Sane and Tomorrow's Warriors. Poles apart in their music and purpose, the diversity foretold Robert's wide-angle view of Jazz expression. This quickly led to further involvement internationally with Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson. Over his nearly 20 years entrenched in the art of music, Robert has recorded eight albums of his own projects, participated in over 100 projects as a sideman and has performed in more than 40 countries.
David Lyttle: David Lyttle began performing professionally at the age of four in his folk group the Lyttle Family. He first reached a national audience with jazz guitar legend Louis Stewart in 2006. Over the next five years would feature a long list of international jazz icons in his touring bands, including Greg Osby, Soweto Kinch, Terell Stafford and Jason Rebello. Since then, David has performed in over 20 countries. His MOBO nominated album ‘Faces’ featured collaborations with internationally recognised music stars, including Joe Lovano and rapper Talib Kweli. Rolling Stone magazine described Faces as “sophisticated and sharp...one of the best, robust listening experiences you're likely to have all year.”