The Troy Street Observer

Jun 23 1955: Wein, Wales, Wail for Atlantic Records

Cover of Wein, Women and Song
Atlantic LP 1221, 1955

As George Wein tells it in his autobiography, Myself Among Others, it was George Frazier’s idea to have Wein, owner of Storyville Records, record an album for Atlantic Records, a competitor. Frazier suggested it to Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun, who liked the idea of Wein playing and singing standards in a trio format. They signed a deal and scheduled a session for April 1955.

Wein apparently had more in mind than just a trio recording. For the April date, Wein had his bassist, Stan Wheeler, and drummer, Marquis Foster, both from his Storyville house band. But he also brought cornetist Ruby Braff and tenor saxophonist Sammy Margolis, and the mood was jazz. By the end of the session, the quintet had completed eight tunes, not quite enough for an album.

Before the group could reconvene, however, Wein was in the studio producing a record date for a singer/pianist for his own Storyville Records. On June 23, he had bassist Bill Pemberton, drummer Jo Jones, and the mystery trumpeter, Wally Wales, ready to go. The problem was, the singer had a few drinks and was unable to function. Wein had already paid the musicians, so he took over the piano and microphone and recorded enough material to fill out the Atlantic album. Wales, wrote Wein, “played beautifully behind me.”

The record was titled Wein, Women and Song (Atlantic LP 1221). Wein’s singing is pleasant but not the high point on the record. That’s the playing of Braff on the first set and Wales on the second. The record was not a best seller…Wein later said it was “relatively well accepted…only my relatives bought the record,” and it was out of print for years when Atlantic gave Wein the masters.

In 1992, Wein recorded nine more songs, this time with guitarist Howard Alden and trumpeter Warren Vache. Arbors Records issued all the music, old and new, on the compact disk Wein, Women and Song (and More) (Arbors CD 19268).

So who was Wally Wales, anyway? It was Bobby Hackett, who for contractual reasons used pseudonyms in recording credits in 1955. He was Pete Pesci on an Eddie Condon date that year, too.

Wein, Women and Song offered a relaxed program of mainstream music. Wein and his friends would get much better at turning out this kind of music with the Newport All-Stars over the coming decades.

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