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Abrahams, Chris / Mark Wastell: A Thousand Sacred Steps (Confront)

Drenched in beautiful ambiance, this inspired and spiritual meeting between Necks pianist Chris Abrahams and percussionist Mark Wastell performing on tam-tam and cymbals, was recorded while The Necks were in residence at Cafe Oto in London, the empathy between the two immediately evident in their graceful approach to these four evolving improvisations.

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product information:

UPC: 5902249003796

Label: Confront
Catalog ID: confront core 01EP
Squidco Product Code: 30250

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardstock Sleeve, sealed
Recorded at Hackney Road Studios, in London, UK, on October 23rd, 2018, by Shuta Shinota.


Chris Abrahams-piano

Mark Wastell-tam tam, cymbals

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Artist Biographies:

"Chris Abrahams was born in Oamaru, New Zealand but grew up in Sydney, Australia.

He became very active in the Sydney jazz scene in the early eighties playing with modern jazz groups including Mark Simmonds' Freeboppers and The Keys Music Orchestra. With Lloyd Swanton he formed the 60's modern jazz-influenced The Benders in 1982. During its day, the band released three albums - E, False Laughter and Distance.

In 1984 Chris recorded and released his first solo piano album - Piano, followed in 1986 by Walk.

In 1985 Chris became a founding member of the Sydney indie rock band The Sparklers. As a result of this, Chris began working regularly with the singer and songwriter Melanie Oxley. Chris collaborated with Melanie, writing songs and producing albums, throughout the nineties. There are five releases with her: Resisting Calm (1990), Welcome to Violet (1992), Coal (1994), Jerusalem Bay (1998) and Blood Oranges (2003).

Chris released a third solo piano album, Glow, in 2001. This was followed in 2003 by Streaming, and then Thrown (2004), Play Scar (2010) and Memory Night (2013).

Chris has collaborated, in both recording and performance, with many contemporary improvising musicians including Burkhard Beins, Mike Cooper and Anthony Pateras. He performs regularly in the improvising music scenes both in Australia and Europe."

-The Necks Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Mark Wastell Born 1968; cello.

Much of Mark Wastell's relationship with his chosen instrument is concentrated on the tactile, textural and sonic possibilities of both violoncello and bow. He is increasingly interested in working with extreme elements drawn from frequency, timbre and pitch.

His early activity was consciously and subconsciously influenced by a variety of improvising musicians including John Stevens, Barry Guy, Phil Durrant and John Russell. Subsequent exposure to contemporary composers lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of the works written for strings by Feldman, Cage, Nono, Lachenmann and Sciarrino. The use of live electronics and music concrete by Tudor, Parmegiani, Xenakis and others was another important early influence.

Wastell's current instrumental material primarily focuses on using abstract principles of space and texture - encompassing elements of new London silence, pro-instrument minimalism, new complexity and electro-acoustics. Because of the very nature of his chosen instrument, he tends to favour 'chamber' style ensembles and is a member of a number of regular groups:

• Chris Burn's Ensemble, with John Butcher, Rhodri Davies, John Russell, Matt Hutchinson

• Derek Bailey's Company - with, for example, Will Gaines, Simon H. Fell and Rhodri Davies

• Evan Parker's String Project, with Peter Cusack, Hugh Davies, Rhodri Davies, Phil Durrant, John Edwards, Kaffe Matthews, Marcio Mattos, John Russell

• Assumed possibilities, with Chris Burn, Rhodri Davies and Phil Durrant

• The Sealed Knot, with Burkhard Beins and Rhodri Davies

• Necessaire with Alessandro Bosetti, Ignaz Schick and Burkhard Beins

• IST with Simon Fell and Rhodri Davies

• Quatuor Accorde with Tony Wren, Phil Durrant and Charlotte Hug

• Broken Concort, a duo with Rhodri Davies

Mark Wastell has also performed with many other leading musicians including John Zorn, Keith Rowe, Peter Kowald, Hugh Davies, Roger Turner, Veryan Weston, Lol Coxhill, Mark Sanders, Axel Dorner, Hans Koch, Phil Minton, Max Eastley and Steve Beresford.

As a soloist he has played at the Micro-classical Festival (London 1996), LMC Festival (London 2000) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2000). He has travelled extensively with various groups, performing on tour and at festivals in the USA, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Greece. Other work includes the launch in 1996 of his own record label, Confront Recordings. Wastell is also joint co-ordinator of the concert venue All Angels, together with Rhodri Davies."

-European Free Improv (EFI) (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:

1. A 8:24

2. Thousand 2:36

3. Sacred 1:54

4. Steps 6:51
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"We owe this session to a touch of happenstance and a measure of forethought. Chris was in London with The Necks for a residency at Café Oto, the capitals enterprising and valuable haven for adventurous music. Mark asked him whether, if he had any spare time whilst in the city, he'd be interested in doing a studio session as a duo.

The two have met a number of times over the years (including once in Berlin when Chris came to hear The Sealed Knot, the trio which Mark inhabits with harpist Rhodri Davies and percussionist Burkhard Beins) and had been corresponding since the time when Mark ran the Sound 323 record shop in the early 2000s. An additional point of interest is that eight months after these studio recordings, Mark also guested with The Dogmatics - Chris' longstanding duo with clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski - at Café Oto in October 2019.

The album title, says Mark, "came to mind quite early on in my listening back to the sessions. I was thinking how musicians cross the globe, physically and metaphorically, treading sacred steps that lead from one musical experience to another. Akin to some kind continual ritual pilgrimage."

For me there has always been a certain spiritual feeling about Mark's improvisations. This was evident back when he concentrated on cello, but in latter years his thoughtful work on percussion exhibits the same meditative quality, with musical gestures that can seem private and enigmatic yet propose countless possible ways forward.

Similar comments can apply to the way Chris addresses a new improvisation. He is known for his penchant for cyclic, rippling, somewhat Debussy-esque opening passages that, gradually intensifying, may develop in any direction. This is especially evident on "A", where the sense of foreboding neither resolves nor breaks. A kind of climax arrives around halfway through "Steps" but finally subsides into that impression of ambiguity which has, on each track, drawn us into the next stage of the pilgrimage."=Barry Witherden

"[...] The other release is by two musicians whose work is reviewed on several occasions by Vital Weekly and on October 23, 2018, they recorded four pieces in a studio in London, and it is, sadly, only twenty minutes of music. Abrahams plays "bluthner grand piano, circa 1905", which surely is something special and which significance eludes me, and Wastel plays a "32" Paiste tam tam and cymbals". The four pieces are titled so there is a short sentence, A Thousand Sacred Steps, and it opens with the beautiful lush piano sounds of "A" and Wastell playing his instruments in a rather loosely organized way. The next two are rather short, with "Thousand" being very obscure and in "Sacred" again mysteriously, with everything picking up in 'Steps" again, again with Abrahams playing a rolling, melodic piece of music, quite introspective and Wastell going quite wildly at the cymbals. Of notice here, is the fact that there is quite some reverb applied to Wastell's plying. I am not sure if this is something natural or added later on, but it adds to the somewhat majestic atmosphere of the music, almost as if the music is part of a sacred ritual. It works, however, quite well, and the only downside is the fact that this way too short. It was recorded when Abrahams was in London for some concerts and did this in between. Why not stay some longer period and give us a longer record?"-Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

Get additional information at Vital Weekly
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Piano & Keyboards
Percussion & Drums
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Australian Improvisers, Composers and Experimenters
The Necks
Duo Recordings
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Other Releases With These Artists:
IST (Davies / Fell / Wastell) + John Butcher / Phil Durrant
A More Attractive Way [5 CD BOX SET + 20 page booklet]
Abrahams, Chris
Thrown (15th Anniversary Edition)
Abrahams, Chris
Sealed Knot, The (Beins / Davies / Wastell)
Grady, Spencer / Fermata Ark / Mark Wastell
Thus : Excerpts From A Smaller Work
Seen, The
For Sake Of Joy Of Study Of Oneself Together
Rowe, Keith / Mark Wastell
Live At I-And-E [VINYL RSD]
Virtual Company (Fell / Wastell / Bailey / Gaines)
Virtual Company
Necks, The
(Northern Spy)
Cooper, Mike / Mark Wastell
Sound Mirrors
Eastley, Max / Fergus Kelly / Mark Wastell
The Map Is Not The Territory
Dogmatics, The
Chop Off The Tops [VINYL]
Seen, The
Archive : Volumes Vi - X : 2014 To 2016
176 (Chris Abrahams / Anthony Pateras)
Music In Eight Octaves
Davies, Rhodri / David Sylvian / Mark Wastell
There Is No Love
Veliotis, Nikos / Mark Wastell
Live at All Angels
Collusion Duo (Nick Smith / Mark Wastell)
Wastell, Mark
Necks, The
(Northern Spy)
Bosetti, Alessandro / Chris Abrahams
A Heart That Responds From Schooling
IST (feat. John Zorn)
New York
Abrahams, Chris / Clare Cooper
Germ Studies For Guzheng & DX7
BEFOREHAND (Lazaridou / Wastell)
Live at Hundred Years Gallery
Wastell, Mark
Caressed On The Brow By Unseen Hands
Oceans of Silver & Blood
Oceans of Silver & Blood
Ist (Davies / Fell / Wastell)
Consequences (of Time and Place)
Davis, Matt / Phil Durrant / Mark Wastell
Confront Collectors Series
Ist (Davies / Fell / Wastell)
Kahn, Jason
Open Space [VINYL 2 LPs]
Abrahams, Chris / Magda Mayas
(Relative Pitch)
Bosetti, Alessandro / Chris Abrahams
We Who Had Left
(Mikroton Recordings)
Necks, The
(Recommended Records)
Davis, Matt & Mark Wastell
Derby 11.05.2002 / Liverpool 10.05.2002
Ist (Davies / Fell / Wastell)
Sealed Knot, The (Beins / Davies / Wastell)
and we disappear
(Another Timbre)
Necks, The
(Recommended Records)
Oceans of Silver and Blood
Live at Cafe Oto
Akiyama / Nakamura / Sugimoto / Wastell
Necks, The
(Recommended Records)
Scotch Of St James, The
Live at Amplify 2004
Necks, The
Drive By
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Davis, Matt / Phil Durrant / Mark Wastell
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