Instruments: Vocals, Guitar
Date of Birth: December 29, 1959
Place of Birth: Birmingham, Alabama

Considered a musical prodigy, Essix is the youngest musician to be inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. He was named "Best jazz Musician of 1995" by Birmingham magazine.

Born in Birmingham, Essix grew up during some of the city's turbulent years as the Civil Rights movement got underway. At age 10, he got his first guitar and amplifier and taught himself to play. Essix was playing guitar in his first band at age 13. His music includes the influences of artists such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers, along with Jimi Hendrix, George Benson and the Beatles.

Toward the end of his teenage years, Essix began his journey into the world of jazz. A year after completing his first recording in 1989, Essix released a second successful CD, but then decided to return to school and put his musical career on hold. He left the South to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, an experience that would change his life. Essix recalls the years at Berklee as when he began to grow as a musician, finding inspiration from the pool of talent he found in the area.

Of the style he developed, Essix puts it this way: "The result is a sound with a distinctly southern flavor that represents much of who I am as a player and a person. I have always wanted to tell my story in my own way, and now I realize that I must use my own voice on the guitar to do that effectively."

From article in Daily Home Newspaper
Talladega, Alabama
April 6, 2000

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

eric essix 1In 2000, while signed to Zebra Records, Eric Essix decided to explore the soul, R&B, gospel and country music that he grew up listening to in his home state of Alabama. It was the start of a musical journey that began with “Southbound” followed by “Somewhere In Alabama” on his own Essential Recordings label in 2004 and now has brought him full circle with his latest offering, ”Birmingham”.

Eric recorded his debut album as a solo artist in 1988 for Nova Records called “First Impressions” and 15 albums later he is still making music that moves; that captures the imagination…that touches the emotions. Eric's last three recordings have been particularly revealing and personal, giving the listener an up close look at the man behind the music and the place he calls home.

Home is Birmingham. Eric grew up there in the midst of the turbulent 1960’s and, after an initial introduction to the guitar by the Beatles, got his start as a performer in the church. Today gospel music still informs and influences everything he does, however, early exposure to Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix greatly contributed to Eric’s sound and style as a guitarist. His trademark “southerness” is evident on the CD “Birmingham”, which highlights some of the people and experiences from the city of his birth and is equally apparent on his latest 2010 release, the Christmas collection, “My Gift To You”.


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Eric Essix looks good in a suit.

Few observers would dispute that assessment, although folks who know Essix are accustomed to seeing the Birmingham musician in less formal attire, wearing a big red guitar.

It’s a Gibson signature model, the Howard Roberts Fusion, and Essix has been playing it for about 17 years at nightclubs, concert halls and festivals.

Although he hasn’t given up that pursuit, Essix has settled into a new occupation this year, working as artist coordinator at the Alys Stephens Center.

Yes, he has a desk in a nondescript cubicle. And yes, Essix handles paperwork as a 9-to-5 member of the marketing team.

But the guitarist says he’s challenged, intrigued and even inspired by his administrative position.

“Maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t have been interested,” says Essix, 50. “But I’ve traveled all over the world, and there aren’t many things in this industry I haven’t been blessed to do. I was ready for something different.”

He signed on at the Stephens Center in September, overseeing the contracts of acts who perform there and making sure their needs are met on scene. Next year, Essix says, he’ll have an impact on programming decisions, and he’ll mentor students at the Stephens Center’s ArtPlay facility.

His first class, on “The Art of Music Production,” runs Jan. 19-April 13 at ArtPlay, an arts-education center for children and adults at 1006 19th St. South. It’s set to open Jan. 18.

“For so many years, I felt that the most important thing was to leave behind a huge body of work,” Essix says. “Now, I think of a legacy as being an inspiration to younger musicians.”

Essix, who plays contemporary jazz and other styles of music, points to trailblazers such as Wynton Marsalis, a trumpeter who became the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

“If you look at jazz artists and how their careers transition, many find themselves affiliated with education and institutions, in more of an administrative and teaching role,” Essix says. “This place will be somewhere I can grow into that. It’s something bigger than me and what I do.”

Flexibility is built into his job description, Essix says. He’s already planning his next album, the 16th in his catalog, and Essix will be performing in Hungary, Israel and India in the spring.

“There will be opportunities for me to get out and tour,” he says. “Now I can afford to be picky.”

Essix found the time to record a Christmas album this year, “My Gift to You,” and has been promoting it with weekend appearances at bookstores and churches. (It’s on his indie music label, Essential Recordings.) He’ll also continue to serve as one of two key organizers for The Preserve Jazz Festival in Hoover.

“This will be the fifth anniversary of the festival,” Essix says. “We’re hoping the planets will align and we’ll blow it out of the water this year.”

Musicians such as Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber and Gerald Albright have been on the lineup, but fans also clamor for Essix to take the stage each year. After skipping one festival, the guitarist has learned that it’s best to oblige them, playing with his own band or sitting in with other groups.

“First and foremost, I like to play the guitar,” Essix says. “I like the way it sounds. I like the way it feels in my hands. I’m still going to do that.”

His holiday CD, mostly solo instrumentals, was designed to be “quiet and warm and Christmas-y,” he says. All 10 tracks are familiar carols, selected by Essix for their spiritual depth and widespread appeal.

“Every year, people have been fussing at me to do this,” Essix says, laughing. “This year, everything fell into place.”

He’s donating part of the proceeds from sales to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, and already has written a $1,000 check to the charity group.

Despite the simplicity of his project, Essix says he faced several challenges while recording the disc at his downtown studio.

“It was a scary thing,” he admits. “There are so many Christmas albums out there. I thought, ‘How can I do something that’s original and interesting?’ I’d done a solo spiritual album before, for a Christian label in Nashville, but I worked on that one with a producer. This time, it was just me. It was hard, because I had no one to bounce ideas off.”

Essix intends to use that situation as teaching fodder for his students at ArtPlay, offering advice to help fledgling musicians develop arrangements, solve problems and evoke emotions.

“That’s part of the reason they wanted me at the Stephens Center,” he says. “I’m a member of the arts community here, and I bring my experience to the table.”


Eric’s earliest musical experiences were hearing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and singing gospel in the church choir. His grandfather bought his first guitar and amplifier, and he taught himself to play by listening to LP’s by Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 and Al Green. His first exposure to jazz was Wes Montgomery’s California Dreamin’ and about the same time he also discovered the music of Jimi Hendrix. A life-changing experience in 1977 at a Weather Report concert (with Jaco at his peak) influenced Eric’s desire to play and compose instrumental music.

In 1988, he produced a solo record called “First Impressions” that landed him a deal with Los Angeles based jazz label Nova Records. He quickly followed that with “Second Thoughts” which produced the national radio hits “Come September” and “First Out”.

After graduating from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music in 1993, Eric released “Third Degree Burn” featuring a band of his fellow classmates. Touring cross country for two years with this group inspired his fourth recording, a powerful concert performance called Eric Essix & Modern Man, LIVE! Albums 5&6 were for Nashville’s Tribute/Diadem label: “Beautiful Music, Guitar” and the compilation, “Just Like You”.

In 1998, Eric was signed by Ricky Schultz at Zebra Records (WEA) and released “Small Talk”, topping the smooth jazz radio charts with the single, “For Real”. In 2000 he returned “home” to his roots with the release of “Southbound” on Zebra which produced another top 10 smooth jazz radio single, the classic “Rainy Night in Georgia”.

His latest release on the Essential Recordings label is a compilation called Retrospective which features music that spans an eighteen year recording career.


Making a total departure from his previous releases, Eric recently completed a new CD, produced by Ray Reach (Director of Student Jazz Programs at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame), which showcases his guitar stylings against a straight-ahead Big Band backdrop. This new CD, titled “Superblue,” pairs Eric with the Night Flight Big Band, a powerhouse ensemble which has appeared regularly at Ona's Music Room in Birmingham, Alabama for several years. A very special guest saxophonist adds his unique artistry to this CD: Lou “Blue Lou” Marini, of Saturday Night Live and Blues Brothers fame. The CD is available at












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