JJ Milteau Bastille Blues
JJ Milteau does a lot for the harmonica. First
with his albums and his participation to numerous great French
singers albums. It has to be noted that there are not so many
session musicians whose own production shows a real artistic
Then with his harmonica methods. Is there one
French harp player who hasn't used one of JJ's methods at some
point ? These methods can be divided in 3 categories:
- The 'pure' methods dealing with the basic technical
- The tablature books with CD proposing instrumental
exercices (with only the theme being transcribed in the book).
- The song-books proposing the complete score
of his albums.
This review focuses on the transcription of Bastille
Blues, his one but last CD. In fact the album itself already
contains a simple but effective instrumental piece ( «
Ruine Babines Blues ») and his play-back track as well
as tablature in the CD sleevenotes.
The song-book we are talking about here, though,
features both the complete transcription of all the harmonica
parts of each track (theme and choruses, in tablature and regular
notation) and all the original play-backs on a CD. This is perfect
for playing great songs with one of the best French line-ups!
Each piece is introduced by a little commentary
written by JJ on the spirit of the song, the harps and the gear
In JJ's song-books, the technical level is quite
high: no overblows (or nearly) but a perfect control of all
the traditional bends and a real dexterity on the whole range
of the harmonica. However, the songs featured in Bastille Blues
are marginally easier than those featured in previous albums
like "Routes" or "Merci d'etre venus..."
However, the odds are that the majority of the
harp players are going to reproduce the themes and not analyse
the improvisation, which can be more difficult to deal with.
It is probably more interesting to create one's own improvisations
on known and catchy themes. That being said, it's nice to have
the transcription of specific and tricky parts of a solo when
one wants to study them in detail.
Like in his previous albums, JJ sometimes uses
harps tuned differently than Richter (often Harmonic or Natural
Minor) which are, as he says himself, "good boosters when
one lacks ideas". So this is the chance to start discovering
these tunings different but as interesting as the classical
Of particular interest are : :
- « Rue du Rendez-Vous », a jewel of sensitivity
and nostalgia, played on an E Harmonic Minor harp. It's slow
and practically without bends, so it's fairly straightforward
to play. The accompaniment perfectly sets the mood, with bass,
piano and the drums played with brushes. Laurent Vernerey, JJ's
great bass player, has co-written the tune.
- « Au Bellevue I et II » : two differents
versions of the same theme, in 3rd position. The jazzy version
actually features a few overblows in the solo ! Very rare on
JJ's CD ! The second version is straight-ahead blues, very 'binary',
which illustrates the possibility of completly changing the
atmosphere of a given tune.
-« Réunion » : This peace is
a duo with JJ on diatonic and Olivier Ker Ourio on Chromatic.
Very simple but effective for the diatonic part and the chance
to try the chromatic for diatonic players.
At the end of the book, the guitar chords of all
the songs are written down.
My only regret about this product is that the
two bonus tracks from the limited edition release of Bastille
Blues are not featured in the book. It's a shame, particularly
for the great tune "Butte aux Cailles".