Blu 7/James Barela
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Blu 7/James Barela

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | INDIE

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz


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Press - All About Jazz

An Awesome Sunday!
Jun. 2nd, 2008 at 9:29 AM
Hello to all of my listeners, All Around The World.

Well with all of the submissions last month I am truly impressed! Some great stuff. Like J.P. DeLaire "In My Life". I played The Prodigal Son last night on The Premiere Lounge, so many loved this song. Another one was, "View From My Window" by East of West, Nice!!! "Tapestry", by Sean O'Bryan Smith - Our Smooth Jazz Artist of the Month for June! This Cat Rocks, so love "Sweet" and "Rain" both are excellent ways that Sean expresses himself. My 2nd favorite of the night has to go to a brand new artists "BLU 7", with their newest CD titled, "Cultural Instigator". This album you can not put down, especially with "Matador" and "Kelly", both will put you on higher ground. BLU 7, Excellent and great for a Sunday Afternoon Cocktail Party!

Stay Tuned!

DJ Host Louie Marxx
- Louie

Jazz trumpeter James Barela was on a roll until he blew out his lip.

“I was really, really busy, playing two and three gigs a day,” says Barela, who heads an up-and-coming local jazz band called Blu 7.

And then he tore a muscle in his lip.

“They call it Satchmo syndrome,” he says, “because Louis Armstrong did the exact same thing. But at the time, technology being what it was, they really couldn’t repair his lip; he just had to figure out some other way to get along with the horn. Luckily I found a doctor who specialized in repairing brass players’ lips.”

So, Barela had to take off a couple of years. He had to find a day job for the first time, but employers said he didn’t have any experience.

“How much experience do you need to have to say, ‘Do you want fries with that?’?” Barela says.

He applied at Wynn Las Vegas when it opened in 2005 and found a sympathetic ear in the director of in-room dining. “He was a trumpet player and he was real interested in my musical background, so he gave me a job and that kept me going until I got my lip back.”

Barela, a 38-year-old Wyoming native, studied with jazz drummer Ronnie Bedford at a junior college in northern Wyoming and later toured with Bedford. Barela received bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.

“I met a guy in Denver who was putting together a big-horn band on the lines of Tower of Power,” Barela says. “He said he had this idea that he was going to go to Las Vegas and take over the lounge scene. I said, ‘Sounds great. I’m in.’ And that’s how I came to Vegas.”

The band, Back Streets, started in 1998 and was a hot act for six or seven years. But the jobs started going away and the musicians scattered.

Barela played with several local groups, including the band behind Dian Diaz, a mainstay at the Bellagio. He was performing with Diaz when his lip began to give out.

“I noticed I wasn’t hitting my marks and I couldn’t figure out why, so naturally I started playing more, practicing more, trying to solve this problem,” he said. “It was the worst thing I could have done. I ruptured the muscle.”

After spending three years in recovery he decided to start a jazz band and called it Blu 7.

“Blu 7 is a term musicians used for time,” Barela says. “It signifies the lowering of the seventh degree of the scale by a half step. That’s what gives kind of that bluesy sound. There’s also a Blu third but I thought Blu 7 was kind of cool. It’s kind of a tip of my cap to the past.”

The band includes Barela, bassist Justin Voge, drummer and percussionist Mitchell Anthony, guitarist EJ Delgado and wife Rachel Delgado on piano, organ and synthesizer. The ensemble combines elements of modern jazz with a mix of styles ranging from Latin, world beat, pop, classical, R&B, funk and the avant-garde. In December the group recorded its first CD, “Cultural Instigator.”

“I had eight tunes I had written and picked out specifically for this project, a diversity of tunes, very eclectic,” he says. “I wanted to show the band in lot of different lights.”

Blu 7 is working on a second album and looking to break into the jazz festival circuit. Locally they perform at different venues, often at the Rhythm Kitchen, where they will be Friday.

Barela sees potential for a vibrant jazz scene in Las Vegas; there are a lot of great musicians here, he says.

“But we aren’t going to try to force it,” he said. “We’ve been playing a lot in town. There have been months when we were working nonstop and months when there wasn’t much going on.”

They’re picking up more airtime on the radio and their music is being heard in Europe, Asia and South America.

“We’re really big in Honduras,” he said.
- Las Vegas Sun-November 23, 2009-Jerry Fink

Blu7: "Cultural Instigator" - CD Review
 Today at 10:01am
Cultural Instigator, a debut CD by Las Vegas-based Blu7 (, is a highly interesting, eclectic instrumental effort. While rippling out from a smooth jazz focus, the entries here are all energized and never “vanilla jazz” bland or clichéd. This is a very tasty CD by a hip group of players.

Led by ace trumpeter James Barela, Blu7 fuses varied rhythmic and textural grooves, some tried and true and others unique and seductive in their own right. Surely, there are references and hat tips here to trumpeter-leaders in the contemporary jazz pantheon -- Herb Alpert, Rick Braun, Greg Adams, Eric Bolvin, later Miles Davis, et al. Barela has obviously been listening to these greats and its shows and shines in his fine playing.

Straight-ahead jazz lovers will find Barela and his Blu crew only occasionally slipping into that realm on his and their fine solo efforts. However, contemporary is the operative word here, so BeBoppers bop elsewhere.

Of particular interest is the smart mix of instruments and rhythmic textures – EJ Degado’s Bossa-tinged acoustic guitar and Barela’s neat Harmon on “Caipirinha,” Barela’s use of an EVI – an Electronic Valve Instrument (“Disruption”), the savvy incorporation of Sandip Thanki on Sitar and Tabla (“Aimee”) and Justin Vogel’s from-the-depths wailing arco bass (“If She Only Knew”). Drummer Anthony percolates all throughout. Barela knows how to get the most “orchestrally” out of this quintet. Whether acoustically or electronically, Blu7 never seems to give in to the gimmickry, though. There’s always a melodic, rhythmic or instrumental-choice surprise twist just ahead.

The production values are fine across the board.

Cultural Instigator might not instigate cultures but it certainly embraces many musical shades and genres. It's a fine contemporary jazz CD that this reviewer - a BeBopper at heart - thoroughly enjoyed.

Selections: "Matador," "Kelly," "Caipirinha," "Disruption," "Leather," "Aimee," "Pooja," "If She Only Knew"

James Barela: trumpet, flugelhorn and Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI); EJ Delgado: guitar; Rachel Delgado: piano, vocals; Justin Vogel: electric and acoustic bass; Mitchell Anthony: drums; Sandip Thankl: sitar, tabla (6)

-Nick Mondello-
- Nick Mondello-All About Jazz

Trumpeter James Barela has not lacked for motivation. In his early days, he used to drive 120 miles from his home in lonely Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Estes Park, Colorado, to sit in with jazz groups passing through town. Playing the changes was easy, but Barela, who’s been in Vegas for 10 years, was looking for something different, something modern. He was looking for material that he could “play a thousand times, a million times, and it still feels as fresh as the first time I played it.”

So, starting last year, he assembled Blu7, a jazz group diverse in ages—the youngest player is 30, the oldest 52—and background, with players coming from the Philippines, North Carolina, New Jersey and Detroit. The band includes drummer Mitch Anthony, guitarist EJ Delgado, keyboardist Rachel Delgado and bassist Fred Watstein, who joined because he lived in the home studio where Cultural Instigator, the band’s first album, was recorded.
“This setting, the music we play, pushes you to your limits, to think outside the box,” says Rachel Delgado.
Still, in a town where The Phantom of the Opera is presented as a 90-minute, get-’em-in-get-’em-out “spectacular,” jazz players must always guard against the cool elitism that seems to unfairly dog the music wherever it goes. So, despite the band’s confidence in its own chops, the first album is loaded with accessible melodies and in-the-pocket soloing. Just don’t call it smooth jazz. Go too accessible, and all your hard-won serious jazz cred is lost (and you find yourself opening for Kenny G).
Anchored by Barela’s steady, full trumpet, and borrowing bits and beats from world music and hip-hop, the album tries to navigate the space between too avant-garde and too commercial. The stew includes straight-ahead, radio-friendly jazz-funk (“Matador”), some laid-back neo bossa (“Caipirinha”) and sleek cuts for a rainy day (“Pooja”).

The band still sounds like it’s finding itself, finding a niche that provides an identity without robbing the musicians of their flexibility. Sometimes the band seems to shift gears only because it can—midway through tracks “Aimee” and “Leather,” a sitar drops in as if from another planet and completely takes over what had been mid-tempo grooves. But the CD’s closer, “If She Only Knew,” creates an unabashed sonic dreamscape of piercing solos, haunting guitar and shifting drum work. It recalls the angular, cool brand of funk of Steve Coleman, and points in an interesting direction.
Now if Blu7 can just find a home in Las Vegas, a town notoriously tough for jazz players. Venues are tough to find—the much-hyped Just Jazz club on Sahara is now called Square Apple and focuses on blues and R&B. The group had previously played Sonny’s Tavern and Vox; but the former closed and the band had a falling-out with the latter. Now, Blu7 is looking to hit the international jazz-festival circuit next year and is planning to release a new album next spring. In the meanwhile, the group hangs on, hoping to find a home in Vegas for their modern jazz crew. The group, Barela says, doesn’t want “to make jazz a novelty, nostalgia. It’s a living, breathing art form. It always was.”

- T.R. Witcher-Las Vegas Weekly


Cultural Instigator-June 2008



BLU7 is a contemporary jazz ensemble conceived by trumpeter/composer James Barela. BLU7 combines elements of modern jazz with an ecclectic mix of styles ranging from latin, world beat, pop, classical, R&B, funk, and the avante garde. BLU7's music can be described as thought prevoking, engaging, and unpredictable with melodies that are as unique as they are unforgettable. BLU7 focuses on improvisation of the individual as well as group improvisation within the confines of thoughtful composition. BLU7 is the voice of jazz present and jazz future. Proof of this can be heard on their debut CD "Cultural Instigator"now being played in over 20 countries including: USA, Australia, Canada, Honduras, UK (BBC), Spain, Norway, Greece, Holland, Turkey, Albania, France, Indonesia, China, and many more. Their music is featured on the BBC, NPR, and Taiwan National Radio.

BLu7 are Diverse Records recording artists