Enoch Light

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Enoch Henry Light (18 August 1905, in Canton, Ohio – 31 July 1978, in Redding, Connecticut) was a classically trained violinist, danceband leader, and recording engineer. As the leader of various dance bands that recorded as early as March 1927 and continuing through at least 1940, Light and his band primarily worked in various hotels in New York. For a time in 1928 he also led a band in Paris. In the 1930s Light also studied conducting with the French conductor Maurice Frigara in Paris.[1]

Throughout the 1930s, Light and his outfits were steadily employed in the generally more upscale hotel restaurants and ballrooms in New York that catered to providing polite ambiance for dining and functional dance music of current popular songs rather than out and out jazz. (It must be remembered that at the time there was always some crossover between popular and jazz music and that the most successful bandleaders frequently played a mixture of both to some extent in order to cater to the demands of their audiences, although the bands employed in swank hotel ballrooms were generally far more subdued in nature.)

At some point his band was tagged "The Light Brigade" and they often broadcast over radio live from the Hotel Taft in New York where they had a long residency. Through 1940, Light and his band recorded for various labels including Brunswick, ARC, Vocalion and Bluebird. Later on, as A&R (Artists and Repertoire) chief and vice-president of Grand Award Records, he founded his own label Command Records in 1959.[2][3] Light's name was prominent on many albums both as musician and producer.


Light 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"), which had huge influence on the whole concept of multi-track recording that would become commonplace in the ensuing years. Doing so, he arranged his musicians in ways to produce the kinds of recorded sounds he wished to achieve, even completely isolating various groups of them from each other in the recording studio. The first of the albums produced on his record label, Command Records, Persuasive Percussion, became one of the first big-hit LP discs based solely on retail sales. His music received little or no airplay on the radio, because AM radio, the standard of the day, was monaural and was had very poor fidelity. 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 sound 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, presumably because he saw them as more-serious audiophiles who had more money to spend on high end stereo equipment, 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). As an arranger, Lew Davies was one of the label's most important contributors.

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.[citation needed] The signature gatefold format (along with Light's prose) was immediately discontinued, and the covers changed to budget labels pressed on recycled vinyl.[citation needed] In 1975 they were completely discontinued.

After the sale of Command Records, Light launched a new label called Project 3 and continued recording, but did not concentrate so heavily on stereo effects. Light recorded several successful big band albums with an ace-group of New York studio musicians, many of whom were veterans of the greatest bands of the Swing Era who were still regularly working in New York's television and recording studios. Released as Enoch Light And The Light Brigade, the arrangements used on the recordings were transcribed note-for-note from some of what were the hallmark recordings by many of the best bands of the swing era. The arranging reconstructions of these now "classic" arrangements were completely reconstructed by arrangers Dick Lieb, Dick Hyman, Tony Mottola and 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. 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, and 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.

Light retired from music entirely in 1974 and died four years later.


Enoch Light's work has been sampled by many bands[4] such as "erectronica" band The Weird Love Makers.[5] 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[6] and features bands performing Light's work and multimedia installations remixing the distinctive Command Records album cover designs.


Big Band Hits of the 30's (Project 3, PR-5049) [LP-1 / 13 tracks]

Big Band Hits of the 30's, Vol. 2 (Project 3, PR-5089) [LP-2 / 12 tracks]

Big Band Hits of the 30's and 40's (Project 3, PR-5056) [LP-3 / 13 tracks; CD re-issue = 12 tracks]

(*) These two tracks were merged into one continuous track on CD re-issues.

Big Band Hits of the 40's and 50's (Project 3, PR-5076) [LP-4 / 12 tracks]

LP-1 and -4 and LP-2 and -3 were reissued as two "double album" compilation LP's, but the various compilation "double album" releases of LP-2 and -3 are missing two tracks that originally appeared on [LP-3] and they are missing from the "double album". (Refer to the talk page.)


  1. ^ Enoch Light, the Master of Sound. Billboard, 18 February 1967.
  2. ^ Grevatt, Ren (November 6, 1961). "Record Hunter Displays Sell". Billboard magazine: 15. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  3. ^ "From a catalog of 3 LP's: The Rise of Command Records". Billboard magazine: 13. June 20, 1960. 
  4. ^ "WhoSampled list of bands sampling Enoch Light's works". http://www.whosampled.com/search/connections/?q=enoch%20light&h=1. 
  5. ^ "The Weird Love Makers official band page". 
  6. ^ "Event page for Enoch Light Birthday Memorial Go-Go Happening 2014". 

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