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It’s rock; it’s jazz; it’s Solomon Grundy

Jennifer K Mahal

Solomon Grundy may have been born on a Monday in the nursery rhyme,

but the band unofficially got its start on a 1992 weekend in the desert

when Newport Beach’s Mark Hamrock, Brent Brandon and two other musicians

decided to have an impromptu concert.

“At first, there were 10 to 20 people. Then there were 50. At the next

show, there were 100, then 500,” said Hamrock, 27. “It kept getting

bigger and bigger and crazier and crazier.”

A year later, the band was playing clubs and swapping out members. So

much has changed in its eight-year existence that only Hamrock and its

name have remained constant from the start. (Brandon joined the band a

few months after it began.)

But the four members that make up Solomon Grundy are positive that the

combination they have right now is the winning one for their mix of rock

and jazz.

The group, guitarist and vocalist Mark Hamrock, drummer Mike Hamrock,

keyboard player Brent Brandon and bassist Corey Cofield, will play Friday

night at the Hard Rock Cafe at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

“A lot of bands do the rock and jazz thing,” said Mark Hamrock, who

teaches music at a Mission Viejo store, “but those trying to do both are

hard to find.”

Most of the songs Solomon Grundy plays are original and written by the

elder Hamrock, who has a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar from UC

Irvine.

On the band’s compact disc, “Follow the Tide,” the jazz roots are easy

to hear in songs such as “Chips and Salsa” and “So Close, Yet So Far.”

But so is the rock ‘n’ roll.

“If you take a lot of musical styles and put them in a blender, it

turns out to be Solomon Grundy,” said Brandon, 28.

The group, which has played at the Whiskey A Go-Go and the House of

Blues, considers itself an alternative to non-instrument-playing boy

bands and “slit-your-wrist” rock.

“It’s upbeat music, and it has a depth to it,” said Cofield, 30.

Over time, Solomon Grundy has moved from being a thrown-together jam

band to a more organized, professional business band, Mark Hamrock said.

“That still jams,” Brandon added.

Brandon, who also plays saxophone, joined the band fairly early on

after meeting Mark Hamrock through a mutual friend. At the time, Brandon

was just learning to play the piano. He now has mastered it.

Brandon also acts as the band’s manager and booking agent, all the

while juggling jobs as an executive assistant at Nanopower, as a weekend

bartender and a student working on his teaching credential.

“Trying to focus on one thing is hard to do,” the Irvine resident

said.

Cofield, 30, became a part of Solomon Grundy in 1995 after answering

an ad posted in a music store.

“I walked by that ad three times,” the Huntington Beach resident said.

“The last time through, I read it and walked away to the car and came

back and saw the influences.”

Among them were some of Cofield’s favorite bassists, including Marcus

Miller and Stanley Clarke.

Cofield, who works for Cannon on the technical help desk, called the

number listed and spoke with Mark Hamrock. After a few conversations,

they got together and jammed.

“We played together one time and it felt like I’d been with the band

for a while,” Cofield said.

The group’s mix of jazz and rock -- “eclectic rock,” Mark Hamrock

calls it -- was appealing to Cofield.

“It was like I was trying to catch the same bus,” said the ex-Marine

and Desert Storm veteran.

“When Corey joined the band, we considered it that we won the

California bass player lottery,” Brandon said.

The last piece of Solomon Grundy fell into place in December, when

Mike Hamrock, 21, Mark’s younger brother, started playing regularly with

the band.

Mike Hamrock, who works at the Main Street Surf Shop on Balboa Island,

said when he was in high school, his brother was the only person he knew

who had a band.

When the group needed a drummer, Mike was the person called to fill

in. And after trying other drummers, the band decided to make Mike a

regular.

“With the team we have now, we’ll be able to give Orange County an

alternative,” Cofield said.

FYI

* WHAT: Solomon Grundy

* WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday

* WHERE: Hard Rock Cafe, 451 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

* COST: $5 at the door

* CALL: (714) 547-8540

* WEB SITE: o7 https://www.solomongrundy.com

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