British pianist Steve Lodder is one of those first-call sidemen for anybody attempting something off the beaten track – he’s a member of the current Bowie-interpreting Dylan Howe Band, and was a regular in the late George Russell’s UK orchestras. This solo album begins with a 14th-century piece from the earliest surviving keyboard-score manuscript, the robertsbridge-codex – which Lodder gently edges from a delicately ringing dance to a discreetly grooving improvisation. On his own Cranborne Chase he displays catchily bluesy turns and double-time bursts that suggest both Keith Jarrett and Abdullah Ibrahim; he plays the second movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto and the 16th-century virginal theme Monsieur’s Almain respectfully straight; and evokes Bill Evans’s conversational exchanges of chord-caresses and lightly swinging melody on Slippers Waltz. The most emotionally atmospheric piece is Lodder’s own spaciously abstract, Messiaen-like reverie Ronchamp; the most dramatic is an overdubbed feature dedicated to Joanna MacGregor. It’s an inspiring set for devotees of the piano, and for broadminded practitioners of it.
The Guardian **** (4 Stars)