Another British record company, Universal, has joined English Capitol in reissuing albums from song stylists of the past by generously combining two Jeri Southern Decca LPs on a single CD. The first, Southern Hospitality, was originally issued in 1954 as a 10" eight-track LP under the title Warm. Three years later, a 12" LP was released with an additional four titles. This session was a setting Southern preferred, herself on piano along with a small group, as she is joined by guitar player Dave Barbour and his trio. Barbour already was experienced in backing other singers of the era, such as June Christy and his wife Peggy Lee. This album also established Southern's predilection to include less familiar material on her albums, a characteristic which was to be one hallmark of her career. Tunes like "Miss Johnson Phoned Again Today" and "I'm in Love With the Honorable Mr. So-and-So" permit Southern to showcase her ability to transform a song into a very personal recitation of a tale that is, if not sorrowful, then at least melancholy. "It Never Entered My Mind" and her lovely rendition of "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" stand out among a tasteful selection of standards.
The second album is somewhat of a shift in tempo and style, exhibiting Southern's ability to work with medium tempo material. On Jeri Gently Jumps, the operative word is "gently"; there's nothing frenetic here, or even much swinging for that matter. Joined by former Woody Herman arranger Ralph Burns and his orchestra, most of the arrangements echo the texture of music and arrangements that Burns did for Woody. "My Ideal" is an excellent example, with delicate reed work setting a sparse backdrop for Southern's delicate interpretation of this tune. Another track which makes this reissue more than worthwhile is Southern's rendition of "All Too Soon which, like much of what Southern did, is a bit off center, but pleasingly so. There's some very nice noodling from an unidentified sax player on this song. And as usual, Southern puts her stamp on the proceedings by including material not all that familiar. Of these, "You Forget Your Gloves," "It Must Be True," and a tune Billie Holiday sang on occasion, "Romance in the Dark" stand out. After ten years of recording, Southern walked away from the business leaving behind a small but significant body of work, and this reissue happily captures a slice of that.