Meow Baby is Danny Lerman’s third release as a leader and follows on the footsteps of Danny’s Island, a CD that reached the top 20 on the Contemporary Jazz charts. His compositions have been featured in the movie soundtracks "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Kill Me Later".
Playing only the soprano and alto saxes, the only thing stopping Lerman from making the jump to the top of the charts is hooking on with a major smooth jazz label and the market muscle such a move results in; his music is certainly more than good enough to warrant the attention. There is a musicality that leaps off the disc and a degree of composition consistent with the best music currently heard on smooth jazz radio.
His sweet soprano tone, as on "No Ordinary Love," works especially well inside the sonic beds he creates, yet the mix places his sound front and center; where it should be. His heartfelt and fuller alto sound is just as attractive. The addition of keyboardist and arranger Bobby Lyle on John Lennon’s "Imagine" adds a solid sense of soul to a piece one would not ordinary associate with this medium. Howard Hewitt’s vocals on this tune, as well, perfectly fit with the established groove.
There are a number of strong tracks on the disc. The opener, "Meow Baby," is a great composition in the new tradition of up-tempo and strong groove oriented music making the airwaves these days, and "The First Time" floats as prettily as a sailboat on a calm sea. One of the more remarkable aspects of this recording is the huge list of heavy-hitters who join Lerman. In addition to those listed Paul Jackson Jr. and Brian Hughes are just some of the sidemusicians.
Guest artists include flutist Hubert Laws and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Laws’ playing is, as always, exceptional. His crackling dance on "South Beach Serenata" is first-class all the way and Brecker, a true monster, helps make "Don’t GoGo There" tear it up. If there is a problem with the disc it’s that the mix is sometimes a off. Laws’ sound, for example, is lost during the early part of "South Beach" along with the Fareed Haque’s occasional solo guitar lines. Overall, however, this is a minor annoyance.