2. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
3. Silent Night
4. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
5. The First Noel
6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
7. We Three Kings
8. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
9. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
10. Angels We Have Heard On High
Fans had been asking Eric to record a Christmas album for a very long time and, last year, Eric finally thought the time was right. So, in the midst of a triple digit July heatwave, Eric set out to record a solo guitar Christmas album. Records have a way of determining their own path and, along the way, Eric added a few full ensemble pieces and invited percussionist Darrell Tibbs to work his magic on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. The decision to add the full ensemble pieces and some bells here and percussion there serves the album well, giving it balance, depth, and texture. The end result is a very special, very intimate, and deeply spiritual Smooth Jazz holiday set.
You get an idea of how proficient Essix is from the fact that your ears would indicate that there’s a bass on nearly every track. But, outside of the 3 tracks featuring a full band and one track where he plays bass himself, all those bass tracks you think you hear are simply Eric on the guitar, without any overdub.
The album opens with "O Christmas Tree", which showcases well just what Eric can do with only his guitar. Eric's take has a gentle bounce, reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's work on piano, and understated soul. Eric turns in a virtuoso jazz performance with echoes of Wes Montgomery on "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" which manages to be very spiritual without ever being overtly gospel. And Darrell Tibbs' percussion adds just the right touches and does it so well that he merely accentuates Eric's guitar work--pushing it even further to the fore--in a way that you almost don't notice he's there.
"Silent Night" is one of two ensemble pieces which previously appeared on the 2005 collection "A Soulful Christmas" and is a nice piece of Smooth Jazz, but not quite as spiritually invested as the rest of the album. Eric starts the next track with an easy soulful sway which ultimately ascends into a dazzling yet, again, gentle jazz guitar solo. After opening "The First Noel" by the book, so to speak, Eric takes the path less trod exploring a tributary of that stream with a solo that recalls some of Pat Metheny's "New Chataqua" playing.
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is the other track dating back to 2005, but struck me as more soulful than "Silent Night". Here Eric displays a bit of George Benson influence, but also hints of Miles Davis, surprisingly enough. "We Three Kings" is another simple solo guitar piece, reminiscent of the album's opening number, while "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" shares the quiet spirituality of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".
The third full ensemble piece, the newly recorded "O Little Town Of Bethlehem", finds Eric sharing the spotlight with sax player Melvin Butler and keyboard player Matt Rhode. And the album closes with "Angels We Have Heard On High", which seems to bring all of Eric's influences and styles together in one softly and gloriously uplifting finale.
You won't find "My Gift To You" at Amazon or iTunes. The album is only available at select outlets in Alabama (including online at Alabama's Guiding Light Church Bookstore) and through the Eric Essix web site. But it's well worth seeking out.
Part of the proceeds of each disc sold will go to The Salvation Army and Fox Gifts for Kids Angel Tree.