Back in tune - Qirko take it easy during just-ended hiatus? That dog won't hunt Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville News-Sentinel, March 5, 2004

Knoxville has more than its share of guitar greats. Hector Qirko, one of the city's guitar elite, has been quiet for the past two years.

However, after a hiatus, the HQ Band is back in business.

"We're just starting to ramp it up a little," says Qirko over lunch at the Sunspot on Cumberland Avenue. "We needed a break. We've been a band since 1986."

The group, which features Dirk Weddington on saxophone, Steve Brown on drums and Jim Williams on bass, has a long, if sporadic, performance history. Once known as a blues band, the group has long stretched out to include rock, jazz and Latin music.

Although the band hasn't recorded any music since 1999's album "South," Qirko has just released "UWP" -- a collaboration with fellow guitar legend Terry Hill, who died of liver disease in 2003. Qirko worked with Hill in the early 1980s when the two were both in the band Balboa.

"This was the last time we played together and the first time, really, since Balboa," says Qirko.

"From the very beginning, Terry was always interested in creative freedom," Qirko says. "A lot of the Balboa stuff was precisely arranged, but the process to get there was really open-ended. And, with somebody as good as Terry, you just say 'Play' and you get something great."

Qirko had the tracks for "UWP" recorded, but decided that he wanted Hill's input. Hill was by then quite ill, but was happy to contribute.

Hill added guitar to what Qirko had, and then Qirko would add to Hill's additions.

On the take of Jimi Hendrix's "If Six Was Nine," Hill overdubbed two guitar solos.

"First he takes this insane guitar solo and then he says, 'Can I have another track?' " recalls Qirko, who says he didn't understand how the two tracks fit together until he heard the playback.

Hill became too ill before the two could record more together. However, Qirko says that "even though it's only 25 minutes of music," he wanted to make it available.

The disc is available at the Disc Exchange and Pick 'N' Grin and at www.hqband.com, and profits will go to the Terry Hill Scholarship Fund. The fund is handled through Pick 'N' Grin, the music store where Hill gave guitar lessons.

Qirko has actually had several projects outside the HQ Band. He has played several gigs with the reunited Lonesome Coyotes (a band he played with in the early 1980s), and he regularly tours with fellow Knoxvillian R.B. Morris -- a project that has allowed him to test his chops against Nashville guitarists, most notably Kenny Vaughan.

"I've been lucky to play with really great guitarists -- people with 'big ears,' " says Qirko. "They've been people who really listen and immediately start looking for ways to augment the song. ... They just naturally start hearing their parts."

The break and the other projects may prove to have a positive effect on the HQ Band. The group is recording again, and Qirko hopes to have a new album available in late May.

"I think we're revitalized and re-energized," says Qirko. "We've been rethinking some material -- playing acoustic instead of electric on some songs."

Rumors that the group had called it quits, he says, were always wrong.

Copyright (c) 2004 The Knoxville News-Sentinel