QIRKO BAND, WERNER AND SCHMIDT RELEASE NEW ALBUMS THAT ARE EASY TO RECOMMEND by Wayne Bledsoe

Knoxville News-Sentinel - November 15, 1992

A music writer always opens up albums by local artists with some trepidation. First: If the album is really bad, a friend can usually skirt the issue, saying it's, it's. . . good! A reviewer, though, is obligated to tell the truth, regardless that he'll hurt feelings and that the artist's family lives close enough to egg his house.

Second: Even if the album is good, there's only a tiny chance that it will be as good as national releases, making it hard to send people out to buy a copy while keeping a clear conscience.

My conscience is squeaky clean while recommending "Can't Help It" by the Hector Qirko Band.

"Can't Help It" is 11 tracks from a blues band that has always been able to crank it out at Knoxville night spots, but couldn't quite capture the energy on their first release. The new disc finally delivers the goods in a take-home package.

Like some of the best guitar players, Qirko doesn't play a lot of notes- it's how he plays the few he does. On the best track, Robbie Robertson's "It Makes No Difference," Qirko plucks out a batch of creamy sustained notes while saxophonist Dirk Weddington provides a perfect counterpoint. At their best, they conjure up memories of the work produced by the great Stax/Volt Records session men.

Bassist Jim Williams and drummer Steve Brown help give the band its distinctive flavor with a jazz influence. Check out Williams' bass on "All She Does Is Say Goodbye."

Best of all, Qirko has found his singing voice. On "Can't Help It," Qirko's vocals sound as natural as his guitar work.

The disc is capped off by an ominously slowed down version of Wilson Pickett's classic "Midnight Hour," which contains some of Qirko's tastiest playing.

While the tape "Live at Lucille's" by pianist Wendell Werner and sax player Terry Schmidt does not contain the terrific production values of the Qirko set, it's still easy to recommend on the basis of the music.

Recorded live at Lucille's in the Old City, the tape is 90 minutes of straight-ahead jazz.

The sound of the tape is a little flat. Werner's piano tends to sound a little muddy, but on tracks like the medley of "Old San Juan/Just the Two of Us" the duo make you forget any aural imperfections. The duo cook on nearly every number (stand-outs include Werner's "God Bless You" and a version of "Georgia on my Mind"), and at 90-minutes, it's a disc that can transport you to a dark, friendly jazz club.

Of course, it's also a tape that might bring listeners down to Lucille's to hear the duo in the flesh.

Copyright (c) 1992 The Knoxville News-Sentinel