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Annie Whitehead Group - Soupsongs


Annie Whitehead & Robert Wyatt

Sarah-Jane, Jennifer, Cristina, Annie

Jennifer Maidman & Annie Whitehead

Liam, Dudley, Annie, Mark, Harry

Cristina Doną

Sarah-Jane Morris

Harry Beckett

"Soupsongs is, so to speak, the travelling show with which the English trombonist Annie Whithehead makes Robert travel thanks to his songs. Another great little miracle which keeps this music and this man in the present." Diario

"...it’s great to hear a real band doing my stuff...Thanks beyond words Annie, you’ve made an old man very happy." Robert Wyatt

I cannot know what I would be if I were not me - words from Free Will and Testament, one of the many beautiful songs by Robert Wyatt, which are part of Soupsongs, the name of the programme which was put together thanks to Annie Whitehead, the English Trombonist, (former member of the Penguin Café Orchestra), long term collaborator and dear friend of Robert Wyatt.
Soupsongs was first performed in Uk in 1999 with Julie Tippetts and Phil Manzanera. In this new revised version, the original musicians Jennifer Maidman (guitar), Liam Genockey (drums) are joined by (keyboards) Tim Harries (bass), and Mark Lockheart (sax). The vocal parts are assigned to three special voices: Jennifer Maidman, reknowned musician, writer and producer, also long-standing member of Penguin Cafč Orchestra;singer-songwriter Cristina Doną, one of the most interesting talents to emerge from Italy in recent years (see biog and review from Mojo below), Sarah-Jane Morris, well known jazz and soul singer.
The revised edition came to life following a conversation I had with Robert in September 2003. He put me in contact with Annie Whitehead with whom I discussed the possibility of reviving Soupsongs. I put Annie in touch with Cristina Doną, who was ideal for the project, having worked with Robert on the making of her single Goccia. Annie proposed Sarah-Jane Morris, whose fiery voice blended perfectly with those of Cristina and Jennifer.
The premiere of this new international edition of Soupsongs took place in August 2004, at the Roccella International Jazz festival in Italy, to great acclaim from both the audience and critics. The success of Soupsongs was repeated in the years to follow at international festivals and concert seasons in Turin, Rome Auditorium, Rimini, Palermo, Udine and Ferrara. In October 2008, the programme was revived at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival, as part of a celebration of the work by Robert Wyatt, with Gilad Atzmon as special guest of Soupsongs. Soupsongs returned to Italy in 2012, at Vicenza Jazz Festival, for a concert dedicated to trumpet player Harry Beckett, who had been an important member of Soupsongs and who had unfortunately passed away 2 years earlier. Harry was not replaced. Annie in fact called Brian Hopper to join Soupsongs in Vicenza.

Soupsongs is not only a simple re-reading of the music of one of the most courageous English Artists: it embodies a successful meetings of different musical realities, in the spirit of the great artistic sensitivity of Robert Wyatt himself.

Cristina Doną started to learn acoustic guitar and write songs in the early ‘90s.In a creative outburst of intense activity, she soon started to develop into a distinctive vocalist, becoming the darling of the cutting edge music scene in Italy. A tall, thin, enchanting figure on stage with her acoustic guitar, singing her heart out, Doną had no trouble winning over hordes of fans and critics.
He first album, Tregua, was released in February 1997, quickly finding itself in the indie charts Top 5. She was awarded the Club Tenco Award (voted by over a hundred major journalists) for Best Debut Album. Robert Wyatt himself quoted Tregua as one of his favourite albums of 97 in Mojo magazine. In the Summer of ’99, Robert Waytt contributed to the recording of Cristina Doną’s signature song Goccia, which was later included in her first English language Album Doną, released in 2004.
Her second album, Nido was released in 1999, which was quickly followed by her first book of poetry Appena sotto le Nuvole, published by Mondadori. After the success of the Nido tour, Cristina received yet another Italian music award (Club Tenco for the Best New Artist Award). In 2001, Cristina was invited to play at Robert Wyatt’s Meltdown at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Her third album, Dove sei tu, was produced by Davey Ray Moor, the English version of this album was released by Rykodisc in September 2004, receiving great reviews by Mojo, Downbeat, the Sunday Times, Uncut, Billboard Europe. Cristina Doną has performed live in England, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and was a guest at the BBC London Live of Robert Elms. Cristina's most recent albums for EMI are La quinta stagione , Piccola Faccia and Torno a casa a piedi.

"...Doną is subtle, sensitive singer-songwriter...a mistress of gentle melancholy and naggingly memorable tunes."Mojo



Soupsongs - Dedicated to Robert Wyatt - by Annie Whitehead Group
with Jennifer Maidman, Sarah-Jane Morris and Cristina Doną

Liam Genockey - drums and percussions
Tim Harries - bass
Brian Hopper - sax tenor
Janette Mason - keyboards
Mark Lockheart - saxophones
Jennifer Maidman - voice and guitar
Sarah Jane Morris - voice
Cristina Doną - voice and guitar
Annie Whitehead - trombone e direction

Doug Beveridge - sound engineer

@Photos courtesy of Marco Caselli-Nirmal

Harry Beckett passed away on the 22nd of July 2010. We honour him with a review from the Guardian from 2 years ago (which you can find on the news page of this site) that perfectly captures the spirit of the man. I’d like to thank Robert Wyatt and above all Annie Whitehead for having given me the possibility to get to know the great person and the great talent that was Harry Beckett. May he rest in peace.