Johnny Smith Quartet / Jeri Southern

Jeri Southern Meets Johnny Smith

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First released as an LP by Forum records in 1958 and reissued by Roulette on CD in 1998, this peripatetic album has now been reissued by Spain's Fresh Sound label. Jeri Southern, whose recording career spanned ten years after, is one of the finer interpreters of popular song, as well as a better than average pianist. Her play lists typically included excellent tunes, many which are often overlooked by other performers. This album is no exception. Intermingled with such well-played favorites as "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" and "Isn't It Romantic" are lesser-recorded works like "Ungrateful Heart," "Robins and Roses," the 1938 Bob Hope/Shirley Ross hit "Two Sleepy People," and the lovely "The Things I Love." Such a song list reflects Southern's impeccable taste when it comes to choosing her program, and by singing the verse, gives the listeners more than their money's worth. With an ability to easily move back and forth between jazz and classical music, Johnny Smith is best remembered (unfairly given his other output) for his recording of "Moonlight in Vermont" with Stan Getz. Having worked with such singers as Ruth Price and Bing Crosby, Smith is adept at playing in such a manner to highlight the stylistic strengths of the singer he is supporting. In this case, his guitar is understated to compliment Southern's plaintive, laid-back style -- a style she uses with great effect irrespective of tempo -- as she coddles the music like few could. Both Southern and Smith are ably assisted by members of Smith's foursome, Bob Pancoast on piano, George Roumanis on bass, and Mousie Alexander on drums. Pancoast is especially notable on "Where or When." This meeting of two top-flight pros has resulted in a distinguished and soothing 40-minute program of fine music wondrously performed.

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