Schwartz Center music series getting in Comfort Zone

Members of Comfort Zone smooth jazz and rhythm and blues band are, back row, from left, Emmett “Rikk” Nixon, Sheldon Miller, Robert Benson and John Wilson. Front row, from left, are Michael Dominguez, Mary “Snow” Brown and Howard Wimbrow. The group plays Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts on July 18. (Submitted photo)

Members of Comfort Zone smooth jazz and rhythm and blues band are, back row, from left, Emmett “Rikk” Nixon, Sheldon Miller, Robert Benson and John Wilson. Front row, from left, are Michael Dominguez, Mary “Snow” Brown and Howard Wimbrow. The group plays Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts on July 18. (Submitted photo)

The Schwartz Center for the Arts is doing its best to give everyone a musical summer with a series of concerts from local and national touring bands.
Following a free show by New Orleans-based group Rockin’ Jake Wednesday night, the smooth jazz and R&B sounds of Comfort Zone take the stage on July 18.

The seven-piece band, which features members from Smyrna to Landover, Maryland, has been around for about 10 years and been seen lately at clubs and restaurants in the beach region and last month’s African-American Festival in Dover.

“We’ve been playing a lot of bigger events and bigger venues but we’ve always been a pretty steady band,” said trumpet player Michael Dominguez, who hails from the Lewes-Milton area.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copy“It took a while to get our name out there but once people got a taste of what we do, it’s been going pretty well. We tend to work when we want to, which isn’t always easy given that we have members from all over the area.”

Comfort Zone played a Valentine’s Day this year at the Schwartz and is back by popular demand.

“It’s a great venue with great acoustics. The stage is huge. Many times all seven of us are stuffed on a small stage. That’s definitely not the case there.

We had a great time last time and we’re really excited to play the Schwartz again,” Mr. Dominguez said.

As in the Schwartz show in February and all of their gigs, Comfort Zone features a mix of Motown and dance tunes spiced with the silky jazz sounds of artists such as Sade, Jill Scott and Grover Washington Jr.

“Our goal is to always try to get folks on the dance floor or bopping their heads if we are playing a theater like the Schwartz,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He added that the band has a “foundation” of songs that are perennial crowd favorites and then they tweak the setlist from there.

He counts among those favorites songs such as Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World,” along with “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” and “Mustang Sally.”

They are all belted out by lead singer Mary “Snow” Brown of Landover.

“She really sings a ballad like no one else,” Mr. Dominguez said.

“People are always amazed that this big sound is coming out of this little body.”

He thinks Comfort Zone fills a niche that not many local bands do.

“We fit the mold for people who are tired of the hip-hop and rap music,” he said.

“Our audience members are typically not rock people. They just want to go out and dance to tunes that they recognize and enjoy themselves. That’s our ultimate goal.”

The band has a had a long associated with Schwartz Center Executive Director Sydney Arzt, who has been booking the group almost since its inception at places like her former Sydney’s Blues & Jazz Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.

“She’s been a supporter right from the beginning. We’ve become one of her go-to bands,” Mr. Dominguez said.

“She’s watched us grow over the years and I think it’s been rewarding for her.”

Tickets for the show are $20 and can be obtained by visiting www.schwartzcenter.com or calling (302) 678-5152.

The Schwartz’s Summer Dancing series kicked off on June 26 with the country band Big Hat, No Cattle and continues with Wednesday’s free show with Rockin’ Jake.

Ms. Arzt says the concert from 6 to 9 p.m. is to encourage families to get out to the Schwartz.

Rockin’ Jake is a harmonica-fronted band that specializes in blues and zydeco music.

It’s going to take on a real New Orleans feel designed as a lagniappe, a French term defined as “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.”

Ms. Arzt says there will be beads for all.

Other shows currently on sale throughout the summer are Divas of One Love set for July 24 featuring the harmonizing vocals of P.J. Brown and Kelly Boyle, backed by a four-piece band.

Leroy Hawkes & The Hipnotics bring old school soul to the Schwartz on Aug. 1. The group presents music from mostly the late ’50s, ’60s and ’70s era from performers like James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett.

The classic rock sounds of The Bronx Wanderers take over the Schwartz Center on Sept. 3.

Finally, Lena Prima & The Lena Prima Band come in direct from New Orleans on Sept. 26.

Ms. Prima is the daughter of famed singer Louis Prima and will perform some of the songs he loved to sing throughout his career.

All shows except for Rockin’ Jake begin at 7:30 p.m.

For tickets and information on the slate, visit the Schwartz Center website.

The Schwartz is at 226 S. State St. in Dover.

Hot blues in Magnolia

Another local music highlight in the coming week is over at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia.

The Central Delaware Blues Society’s regular Thursday night soirée will feature guitarist Brent Johnson

A guitar prodigy from the age of 4, South Texas-born Mr. Johnson always has immersed himself in the world of blues, jazz, rock, punk, country and world music. By the time his family moved to New Orleans in his teens, he was predestined toward a career in music.

Brent Johnson will bring his blues guitar stylings to the Central Delaware Blues Society Event Thursday night at Jonathan's Landing in Magnolia. (Submitted photo)

Brent Johnson will bring his blues guitar stylings to the Central Delaware Blues Society Event Thursday night at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia. (Submitted photo)

After high school he joined the band Under The Gun, who built a considerable following on the local live circuit in Louisiana and beyond.

He counts among his many influences The Clash, Albert King, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins, Black Flag and Thelonius Monk.

At 22, he joined Bryan Lee and the Blues Power Band with whom he has recorded and toured nationally and internationally for the past 10 years.

Having performed at Jonathan’s Landing earlier this year, Brent Johnson and The Call Up released their debut album “Set The World On Fire” in 2014 through Justin-Time Records out of Montreal.

Label owner Jim West is a longtime fan and gave Mr. Johnson free rein over the material and production. Renowned musicians Sonny Landreth and Alvin Youngblood Hart guest on several tracks.

Opening will be local blues band Bad Ave.

Tickets for the show are $15 or $10 for Central Delaware Blues Society members.

The clubhouse at Jonathan’s Landing is at 1309 Ponderosa Drive in Magnolia.

For more information, visit www.centraldelawareblues.com.

‘Faith County’ premieres

From left, Debra Passwaters (Violet Farkle) Carol Torrey (Faye McFaye), Christine Flora (Betty Bedford), Nancy Mikkelsen (Mildred Hayworth Carson) Art Paul (Luther Carson) and Dana Wilkens (Naomi Farkle)  star in "Faith County". (Submitted photo)

From left, Debra Passwaters (Violet Farkle) Carol Torrey (Faye McFaye), Christine Flora (Betty Bedford), Nancy Mikkelsen (Mildred Hayworth Carson) Art Paul (Luther Carson) and Dana Wilkens (Naomi Farkle) star in “Faith County”. (Submitted photo)

The Second Street Players present its summer comedy “Faith County” today through Sunday and July 17 through 19.

All performances will be held at the Riverfront Theater, 2 S. Walnut St., in Milford. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 3. Tickets are $17 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or by calling (800) 838-3006.

“Faith County,” written by Mark Landon Smith, concerns a bunch of colorful country characters who gather for this year’s county fair. In the play, the audience learns that there’s stiff competition in the arts and crafts category.

Sean and Julie Finley direct the production.

Dance scholarships

Tatiana Akinviena Dance Academy and Diamond Dance Company are applauding two of their students for being awarded summer intensive scholarships for 2015 at the recent Priscilla Payson Foundation Scholarship Competition

Ariana Knowles, 12, of Milford, a student at Milford Central Academy, who is a senior apprentice member at Diamond Dance Company, was presented with the first-place Encouragement Award and a $200 scholarship.

Jillian Kerr, 12, of Harrington, and a student at W.T. Chipman Middle School, who is also a senior apprentice company member with DDC, was presented with the second-place Overall Junior Award and a $750 scholarship to the summer intensive program of her choice.

Ariana is attending the Dance Conservatory’s Summer Intensive for which she won a three-week scholarship at The Delaware Dance Festival in addition to the $200 from her Priscilla Payson award. Jillian is attending First State Ballet Theater’s Summer Intensive in Wilmington.

They both have been invited to perform at The Priscilla Payson Foundation Celebration of Dance on Aug. 14 at The Christiana Hilton in Newark.

For ticket information, visit priscillapaysonfoundation.org. For additional information about TADA and Diamond Dance Company visit www.diamonddanceco.com and tada-ballet.com.

Now showing

New this weekend in theater is the animated “Minions 3D,” the science fiction film “Self/Less” and the horror film “The Gallows.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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