HQ Band- Old School

By Mieke Geukens (Marcie), Rootstime, June 2008

Translated by Geurt Jacobs

Blues where the saxophone predominates have something indefinable. There is a late evening atmosphere with a nostalgic mood, but in the blink of an eye it will change to a jubilant musical expression of a sun bursting through the clouds.

The same fluidity can be found on the “Old School” recording by the HQ Band. Beside bandleader/guitarist Hector Qirko, saxophonist Dirk Weddington is in spectacular form. On “I don’t care no more” he is plodding along sadly through empty streets, but in “Sister Kate” the saxophone reaches out to higher planes as if Kate leans over the wall of a roof garden. In Clifton Chenier’s “Blues de ma negresse” one hears a New Orleans sound, a mixture of tragedy and optimism, and in “Singing the blues” one cannot escape the Jimmie Rodgers reminiscence. With few exceptions Hector wrote all the songs for this album, and although he likes to change genres, he keeps it easy here.

With Hector, Dirk, Jim and Steve one hears the pleasure of together making “De Band.” The HQ Band dates from 1985, and every five years they produced an album. “Old School” is their fifth, and was recorded in Knoxville, Tennessee. One realizes that these musicians are not beginners anymore. Each member followed his own musical path before they came together as a band. Although they preferred playing “Chicago Blues,” they certainly didn’t limit themselves to this only. Performing live they enjoyed great success in Asheville, Johnson City, Knoxville and Nashville, to name a few. This mixture of blues, rock, jazz, bluegrass and rockabilly, which they present “animoso en con amore,” is received with enthusiasm.

However, they are not Italian. Hector Qirko, born in New York City, grew up in Latin America, played all kinds of music and even performed with Lonnie Brooks. He is an excellent guitar player, lively if he feels like it, but intimate if required by the melody. In “you let me down” his accompaniment is as subdued as a comforting touch. His warm voice is charming in the slower as well as more rhythmic pieces. The three band members- saxophonist Dirk, bassist Jim Williams and drummer Steve Brown- show craft and virtuosity. Dirk Weddington took lessons from a jazz teacher and completed his college education. He played with Tito Puente and practiced with Joe Lovano.

However, it is foremost the teamwork that makes this “Old School” album so exciting with its musical spontaneity. Drummer Steve brown expressed it very well when he said “From the first moment the HQ Band played together it felt right. And it still does.”