CARMEN MILAGRO – Popular Latin Favorite Takes The Stage At Annual SFFD Chili Cook-Off, September 19th2 September 2009
Rich Armstrong, Marquinho Brasil, Andius Jent, Jara Queeto, Jojo Styles and Matt Willis join her in presenting hot new single,
“Milagro Asi es la Vida”
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
The San Francisco Fire Department will be staging its Third Annual Cook-Off on Saturday, September 19th. The event will be located at 345 Brannan between 2nd and 3rd Street. The annual feast benefits the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program. From 11 AM and 5:00 there will be live music, a DJ, a raffle and prizes as celebrity judges spark their taste buds sampling through the entries. Each contestant has been asked to submit five gallons of chili. That means plenty of spice for all the party goers. And nothing is hotter than the Carmen Milagro Band who open the Cook-Off at 11:00. Carmen Milagro and her amazing ensemble have just released their video, Milagro (Asi es la Vida). Her CD, Not Bad For A Gringa, is now available on as well as CDbaby.com. Her new single, “Milagro Asi es la Vida”, also on iTunes, is from the upcoming CD tentatively called Leyendas y un Milagro (Legends and a Miracle). Carmen Milagro is a radiantly beautiful singer with a bright and seductive sound. The 14 tracks prove her star quality and that of her fellow band members. I recently spoke with Carmen about her up-coming appearance at the SFFD Third Annual Cook-Off.
CARMEN MILAGRO. Photo, Juan Carlos Pometta Betancourt
Seán: How did this come about for you?
Carmen: I’ve actually been involved with a lot of different fire departments. So, it seems to me a natural turn of events. One of my friends, Darlene Dumpit, is the event person for this Chili Cook-Off in San Francisco. She asked me if I would perform.
Seán: What’s on the venue? What will you be performing? How long is your set?
Carmen: They close off this alley section located at 345 Brannan, between 2nd and 3rd. The event begins at 11 AM. My band hits the stage at 11 AM and we’ll will play for an hour. It’s all a little loose, for sure.
Seán: So, The Party starts right then and there with you!
Seán: What other Chili Cook-Offs have you participated in?
Carmen: I’ve been involved with the Colma Fire Department since I was 16 years old. I’ve worked the Chili Cook-Off in San Jose and I’m also with the Foster City Fire Department.
Seán: How does all this happen? How do you get connected with the Fire Departments?
Carmen: Actually, it’s been a part of my upbringing. I was very close to the Benedetti family in Colma. Bob Benedetti was the Chief at the Colma Fire Department for many years. So, I sort-of grew up around that environment – close to the family, their sons and daughters, all my life. I was always involved. Either eating at all their events – like the Chicken and Polenta Feed in Colma, the Spaghetti Feed, the Chili Cook-Off – and helping as well! Chopping carrots and onions in the kitchen, that sort of thing.
Seán: And now you come in as a musician. How long has that been going on? When did you go from chopping to using your vocal chops?
Carmen: In the last couple of years the whole thing started turning around. For example, we started planning my music video. One of the things I wanted to focus on and to showcase was the idea of community and what that means to me. Because I’ve been involved with the Colma Fire Department for so long, I really felt that was an integral part. So we got permission through my friend Mark Goodman. He’s been a volunteer firefighter at the Colma Fire Department for many years and grew up under the tutelage of Bob Benedetti. We were able to secure permission from the current Fire Chief to feature the Colma Fire Department in my music video, Milagro Asi es la Vida. Darlene helps manage that as well. And while we’re shooting the video she says, “I’d like you to consider playing for the San Francisco Local 798 Third Annual Chili Cook-Off.” I said, “Absolutely.”
Milagro Asi Es La Vida (Video, directed by Channing Kennedy)
Seán: Tell me about your material. What are you going to be playing?
Carmen: We’ll be featuring songs that are going on my new CD. We’re still in the process of recording it, but we’re going to focus on the new material.
Seán: Does that include a range of ballads and up-tempos?
Carmen: A little bit of everything, pretty much my signature stamp on what I do. I go from traditional songs which are from forty to seventy years old. We just give them my style, in a slightly more contemporary way, not really changing the ballads and the boleros from what they were meant to be. When I write – a lot of my songs are things that I’m very passionate about or are my experiences. Those tend to be a little more Rock or Pop oriented, a more contemporary melding of different world sounds. The new single that’s out now – we’ve just released it on iTunes and the music video is on YouTube and for sale on Amazon.com as well.
RAY URIBES, bass guitar
Carmen: “Asi Es La Vida” is very contemporary. It’s co-written by myself and two of my oldest kids in my Peanut Butter & JAMMusic Sessions for Kids program. It’s infused with this Hip Hop blend, then it’s got this world music dance beat to it – very Pop oriented, very danceable. One of the other songs we’ll feature is called, “Living Legend”, which is Latin-inspired and guitar driven, a little bit more Rock-driven. “Living Legend” is a tribute to Coretta King and Dolores Juerta. Then we have other songs, such as “Sway”. I think most people are familiar with that song standard. But we’ve made it more Latin-driven, part of it Spanish, and its really emphasized with a lot of brass – like this dirty tuba sound. Our live version will be a little different than what’s on the CD. It’s our take on a very standard song.
Seán: Will your CD be available at the Cook-Off?
Carmen: I always have my CDs available in my magic bag.
Seán: I know you’re going to accumulate new fans at the Cook-Off. How can they contact you?
Carmen: The best way is to go to my web site, milagromusic.com, or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Jojo Styles and Marquinho Brasil
Seán: I’ve seen the video and really enjoyed it. Your vocals are hot, the party atmosphere is sexy and fun, and it’s great to see the Colma Firefighters in action.
Carmen: Thank you! The whole idea of the video is community and fun and coming together. You know – even when life sort-of throws you a curve ball – get up, dust yourself off, and keep going on. Asi es la vida means, “That’s life”.
Seán: I know that dance really well. Will the musicians on the video be playing at the Cook-Off?
Carmen: Pretty much all of them. I’m very fortunate that I have two phenomenal bass players who work with me. Andius Jent will be with me on the 19th and of course Rich Armstrong who is our musical director. Rich has played with Boz Scaggs and ColdBlood. Also, Marquinho Brasil our percussionist and my producer. He was on tour with Mariah Carey for nine years. Jara Queeto is on keys, Matt Willis on drums, and Jojo Styles on guitar.
Seán: What’s coming up? Where and when are your next gigs?
Carmen: We have two gigs before the Chili Cook-Off. On September 13th it will be the trio – me, guitar and keys – at Jack London Square Farmers’ Market from 11 AM to 2:00. That same day, from 3—4:00, we’ll be here in San Francisco on the main stage at the Portola Festival. It’s located on two blocks of San Bruno Avenue between Felton and Bacon Street.
Seán: And if I had to slot you into a Category?
Carmen: You know, I hate that question!
Seán: I do too. But someone always asks.
Carmen: I’ve been told it’s a cross between Miami Sound Machine, Shakira, and Alanis Morisette.
CARMEN MILAGRO: “Asi Es La Vida”
There are so many styles of Spanish and Latin music that can be experienced when listening to the Carmen Milagro Band. As a Lead Singer, Carmen Milagro’s spirit-filled vocals are packed with sunshine, a fiery temperament, and an invitation to red-hot romance. The competition is going to be stiff at this year’s Chili Cook-Off. Carmen Milagro will be the most popular dish around.
Add this exciting new recording to your collection:
Milagro Asi es la Vida — Song written by: Carmen Gonzalez, Rocco Bovo, Steven Zhu. Performed by: Carmen Milagro, Rocco Bovo and the MILAGRO Band. Produced by: Marquinho Brasil at MoonDog Studios, Alameda, CA. Engineered by: Marquinho Brasil, Brad Belknap, Jara Queeto and Andrew Leavitt. Mix & mastered by: Jim Reitzel. Lead vocal: Carmen Milagro. Trumpet and Background Vocals: Rich Armstrong. Percussion: Marquinho Brasil. Keys: Jara Queeto. Guitar: Jojo Styles. Bass: Ray Uribes. Drums: Matt Willis. Guest Vocals: Rocco Bovo. Background vocals & international voices: Rich Armstrong, Marquinho Brasil, Lisa Baty, Kathy Schmidt, Giovanna Queeto, Tamiko Ishidate, and the “Milagro Kids”.
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Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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