By Rich Drees - For Weekender

Santana tribute Milagro playing River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains April 29.

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PLAINS TWP. — For four-and-a-half decades, the band Santana, founded by guitarist and band namesake Carlos Santana, has carved out a space in the American music scene for itself with its unique blend of Latin music, soul and rock. Along the way they earned critical and popular praise and inspired numerous musicians including Julio Claudio, the founder, guitarist and lead vocalist for the Santana tribute band Milagro, who says that the band’s music sparked a musical awakening within him.

“I’m a guitar player, yes, and I’ve been influenced by a number of different things, but the first time I heard Santana it really started to give me a different perspective on things and on what I like,” he states. “It was going back to my Latin heritage. It was probably the mid-80s when I noticed the different percussion elements mixed with the guitar, that ‘Santana sound,’ that really influenced me.”

And it was the influence that ultimately lead him to Milagro in 2005.

“Back in the 2000-era there were a lot of tribute shows going on, lots of different styles of music and bands,” Claudio recalls. “There wasn’t any Santana tribute band around here in New York. I just felt that the Santana tribute thing was a good idea to jump on. I started gathering up guys and over the years with some lineup changes we’ve have finally locked in the guys who have stuck it out.”

Milagro will be playing at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Wiles-Barre on Friday, April 29.

But Claudio’s appreciation for the music of Santana extends beyond its ethnic roots to the deeper musical journey that the band has been on over the course of its career.

“There’s a lot of soulfulness that Carlos Santana has and in the notes and how he chooses to play things,” he says. “If you listen to a lot of Santana, especially the live stuff, he’s constantly changing how he plays the songs. It is kind of interesting to hear the songs slowly evolve over the years.”

It is that evolution that Claudio takes into consideration when crafting a performance’s set list.

“Different shows we’ve tried different versions just because we’ve played the stuff so much that if we give it a different twist or try a newer version it’s new to us again as well,” he states. “That is always fun. Depending on the show, if it’s more like a Woodstock celebration we try to grab a lot of the music from that era and we try to give it the Woodstock groove from back in the day. Sometimes we’ll even try to pick and choose from a few of them and create our own version.”

But no matter what era of the band Milagro is performing from, Claudio says that there will always be fans at their shows who can relate.

“We get a lot of people who come out who have either been to Santana shows or who have been to a big event show like Woodstock,” Claudio says. “They like to tell us, ‘Oh you brought me back.’ They can’t stop moving. They can’t stop dancing. The percussion musicians in the band are so strong and so gifted. They are the ones who really carry the band when it comes to the grooves. That really seems to excite people.”

Reach the arts and entertainment department at 570-991-6111 or at

Frontman Claudio says Santana sparked musical awakening

By Rich Drees

For Weekender

Reach the arts and entertainment department at 570-991-6111 or at