Enoch Henry Light (18 August 1905, in Canton, Ohio – 31 July 1978, in Redding, Connecticut) was a classical violinist, bandleader, and recording engineer. He led a band who recorded as early as March 1927 through at least 1940. In 1928, he led a band in Paris. The remaining band records were recorded in New York. As A&R chief and vice-president of Grand Award Records, he founded Command Records in 1959. Light's name was prominent on many albums both as musician and producer. In the 1930s Light studied conducting with the French conductor Maurice Frigara in Paris.
He is credited with being one of the first musicians to go to extreme lengths to create high-quality recordings that took full advantage of the technical capabilities of home audio equipment of the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly stereo effects that bounced the sounds between the right and left channels (often described as "Ping-pong recording").
He arranged his musicians in ways to produce the kinds of recorded sounds he wished to achieve, the first to do so. The first of the albums produced on his record label, Command Records, Persuasive Percussion, became the first huge hit based solely on retail sales. His songs received little or no airplay on the radio, because AM radio, the standard of the day, was monaural. Light went on to release several albums in the Persuasive Percussion series, as well as a Command test record.
The album covers were generally designed with abstract, minimalist artwork that stood out boldly from other album covers. These pieces were usually the work of Josef Albers. Light was so interested in the sounds of his music that he would include lengthy prose describing each song's sounds. In order to fit all of his descriptions on to the album sleeve, he doubled the size of the sleeve but enabled it to fold like a book, thus popularizing the gatefold packaging format. The gatefold sleeve became extremely popular in later decades, and was used on albums such as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Enoch Light released myriad albums in various genres of music under a variety of names during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some were released under Grand Award Records, a subsidiary label he founded earlier. The music was intended for older audiences, as opposed to most popular music of the time, which was generally intended for teenagers and young adults. During this time, he pioneered many recording techniques such as the use of 35 mm magnetic film instead of magnetic tape, thereby reducing the effects of "wow" and "flutter". The recordings were released under the "35MM" series, starting from "Stereo 35-MM" released by Command Records. Musicians who appeared on Light's albums include The Free Design, The Critters, Rain, Doc Severinsen, Tony Mottola, Dick Hyman, organist Virgil Fox (on the Wanamaker Organ), and arranger Lew Davies.
In 1965, Light sold the Command record label, which had released the Persuasive Percussion series, to ABC Records, which itself was subsequently sold to MCA Records. After the sale, the quality of those records plummeted dramatically. The signature gatefold format (along with Light's prose) was immediately discontinued, and the covers changed to budget labels pressed on recycled vinyl. In 1975 they were completely discontinued.
Light continued recording after the sale of Command with a new label called Project 3, but did not concentrate so heavily on stereo effects. Light recorded several successful big band albums with his earlier established band in the Command days Enoch Light And The Light Brigade. Arrangements used on the recordings were transcribed from the notable hit records of many bands from the swing era and were completely reconstructed by arrangers Dick Lieb, Hyman and Mottola as well as Jeff Hest. Many of the musicians employed for this series of "recreations" had been members of the original bands that made the original records decades earlier, and were still actively employed in the television and recording studios of New York. This veritable "Who's Who" of swing era veteran musicians included saxophonists Phil Bodner, Walt Levinsky, (both also heavily featured on clarinet), Ray Beckenstein, Gerald Sanfino, Al Klink, Boomie Richman, Romeo Penque, Sol Schlinger, trumpeters Mel Davis, Rusty Dedrick, Johnny Frosk, Bernie Glow, Joe Graves, Markie Markowicz, Bob McCoy, and Marvin Stamm, trombonists Wayne Andre, Paul Fralise, Urbie Green, Lou McGarity, Buddy Morrow, and Santo Russo, guitarist Tony Mottola, bassists Bob Haggart and George Duvivier, drummers Don Lamond, Bob Rosengarden and Ronnie Zito, pianists Dick Hyman and Derek Smith and vibraharpist Phil Kraus.
He retired from music entirely in 1974 and died four years later.
Enoch Light's work has been sampled by many bands such as "erectronica" band The Weird Love Makers. Light's rendition of "Autumn Leaves" was sampled by RJD2 for the song "A Beautiful Mine," which is the theme for the AMC drama Mad Men. Light's version of "My Way of Life" was sampled by the Australian group The Avalanches for their hit song "Frontier Psychiatrist."
Events coinciding with Light's birthday near his birthplace of northeastern Ohio have occurred since the late 1990s. The most recent is 2014's Enoch Light Birthday Memorial Go-Go Happening and features bands performing Light's work and multimedia installations remixing the distinctive Command Records album cover designs.
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