Although the Enja label had more room for hard-swinging jazz of the old school than ECM did, producers Matthias Winckelmann and Horst Weber were undoubtedly inspired by the success of Manfred Eicher’s label. Both Enja and ECM were German record companies documenting ’70s innovation under a mysterious acronym; both began their catalog with a release by Mal Waldron. Shortly after Eicher produced the first albums by John Abercrombie (Timeless, recorded 1974) and Pat Metheny (Bright Size Life, recorded 1975), Winckelmann and Weber put out the first album by John Scofield: Live, a 1977 gig tape with Richie Beirach, George Mraz, and Joe LaBarbera. That was followed by a studio date with Hal Galper, Stafford James, and Adam Nussbaum (Rough House, recorded 1978). These early Scofield discs with piano are fun documents of an era, a moment when the best and brightest were working out the Coltrane/Tyner language in an acoustic fusion context, but they are perhaps a little too airless and relentless for classic status.
In December 1981, Scofield toured with his peer Nussbaum and a major voice from the previous generation, Steve Swallow. Enja helped put the tour together and released two LPs of music from a three-night stand at Club Vielharmonie in Munich. Scofield’s conception had new breadth, depth, and subtlety, and his bandmates were on the same joyous page. Shinola and Out Like a Light have been touchstones ever since.