Mark Wastell is a cellist active on the London free improvisation scene. He belongs to the generation of musicians who rose during the second half of the 1990s and also includes Rhodri Davies, Ian Smith, Knut Aufermann, and Caroline Kraabel. Drawing from John Stevens' conception of improvisation and the minimalist works of Morton Feldman, Luigi Nono, and Helmut Lachenmann, his playing focuses on the sonic possibilities of the cello, attentive listening, and extremely limited gestures; thus placing him in the turn-of-the-century post-minimalism that simultaneously developed in London (John Butcher, Phil Durrant), Tokyo (Taku Sugimoto, Toshimaru Nakamura) and Berlin (Burkhard Beins, Axel Dörner), the latter where he spent some time.
Wastell's love of music goes back to his childhood, but he chose the cello as his main instrument only in his late teens, after spending time on piano and double bass. He began performing in free improv circles in 1991 and appeared among the London Musicians' Collective's membership for the first time a year later. He recorded his first session in 1995 in the quintet Icarus alongside violinist Philipp Wachsmann, whose influence would continue to be heard in his playing. A year later, Wastell founded the micro-label Confront on which he issued many albums by projects he is involved with. Since then, his career has slowly but constantly picked up momentum.
Since the early '90s, Wastell has been active in many projects around London, but one improviser seems to follow him everywhere (or is it the other way around?): harpist Rhodri Davies. The pair perform in Chris Burn's Ensemble (the 1997 CD Navigations and the concerts that followed in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.A. helped establish Wastell's talent), Evan Parker's Strings project, the quartet Assumed Possibilities (with Burn and Durrant), the trio the Sealed Knot (with Beins), the Improvising String Trio or IST (with Simon H. Fell), the London Improvisers Orchestra, and in the duo Broken Consort. Needless to say their association has become particularly fine-tuned with the years. Wastell also played in Necessaire with Beins, Ignaz Schick, and Alessandro Bosetti, and is a member of Tony Wren's Quatuor Accorde. His playing was sampled by John Wall for his Constructions series.