Topic: Kokomo: Iconic Tauranga Band

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Kokomo has to be considered an iconic Tauranga band. They would certainly be one of its longer surviving ones having originated as an acoustic blues trio in 1991 following a set Derek Jacombs had done with Grant Bullot at the National Jazz Festival. Later in the year Grant’s bass playing brother Roger joined them to jam and the band was born (as Kokomo Blues).

Since then they have released three albums under that name, plus one collaboration with Tauranga singer Tracie De Jong, and since shortening their name to Kokomo they have released a further six albums and a DVD.  Over the last 20 years they have gigged extensively performing at the National Jazz Festival on 16 occasions and at a truckload of other festivals from Northland to Hokitika.

KokomoKokomo at the 2009 National Jazz Festival (L to R; Nigel Masters, Mike Kirk, Derek Jacombs, Ian ‘Beano’ Gilpin [behind drum kit], Grant Bullot, Sonia Bullot).

Roger Bullot left in 1998 to pursue an artistic career and is now an extremely talented sculptor. His replacement was Boatshed Studios owner and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Masters. While Nigel’s main role is that of bass player, he is equally at home on keyboards or guitar. The band was further expanded in 2000 when Sonia Trappit, who later married Grant Bullot, joined on trumpet and flugelhorn. Sonia has since released an excellent solo album of jazz featuring Julia Deans on vocals and backed by members of Kokomo and Shaken Not Stirred.

The first Kokomo album (under the Kokomo Blues moniker) consisted of blues covers, but by album number two their own compositions entered the fray and since then original compositions have dominated most releases with the notable exception of In The Well, which was an album of Bob Dylan songs completely rearranged in the Kokomo style.  Their latest release It All Comes Around revisits some of those early blues influences and includes some live favourites that had not previously been recorded.

These days the core band consists of Derek Jacombs (guitars, mandolin, banjo, and lead vocals); Nigel Masters (bass), Grant Bullot (harmonica) and Sonia Bullot (trumpet & flugelhorn). They are usually augmented at live dates by Mike Kirk (electric guitars) and Ian ‘Beano’ Gilpin (drums & percussion) who must be two of the busiest musicians in Tauranga. When he’s not playing with Kokomo, Mike Kirk is likely to be found with John Michaelz & The Usual or any one of a handful of other bands. Beano is a permanent member of Brilleaux but also plays with many other bands.

However there are times when the Kokomo guys like to get back to the old acoustic blues and jug band music that first interested them. For this purpose Derek, Nigel and Grant have formed an acoustic side project they call The Self Righteous Brothers in which guise they have performed at Mills Reef Winery, a couple of the Marchwood Blues Picnics and on a host of other occasions. As The Self Righteous Brothers they released an album called RustySwingFeel in 2005.


As Kokomo Blues:    

  • The Old Original Kokomo Blues (1992)                                                                  
  • When In Rome Do Rome (1995)                                                            
  • To Be Or What (1997)

With Tracie de Jong:        

  • Strombolling (1996)

As The Self Righteous Brothers:    

  • RustySwing Feel (2005)

As Kokomo:         

  • Little Heroes (1999)
  • Blues & Beyond (2001)
  • Songs Of Love And Not (2003)
  • Kokomo A-Go-Go (also available on DVD) (2006)
  • In The Well (2008)
  • It All Comes Around (2011)

Sonia Bullot (solo album):                

  • Tonight On Trumpet (2009)

by Ken Usmar (February, 2012).

Ken Usmar is a freelance writer and photographer with an interest in writing about Tauranga's musicians and the local music scene.

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Kokomo: Iconic Tauranga Band


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