Gerard Bertrand Hosts Craig David & Lisa Simone at "Jazz a l'Hospitalet"

The Jazz a l’Hospitalet Wine and Music Festival is a perfect combination of open-air live music performances, culinary excellence and the finest French award winner wines in the world created by charming French winemaker Gerard Bertrand at his picturesque vineyard estate Chateau l’Hospitalet in the South of France town of Narbonne. “This is something special I look forward to the entire year”, he told me over dinner, that night we all wore red, while we tasted the best and most expensive rose wine in the world “Clos du Temple” a new wine, not in the market yet that he has perfected.

Gerard Bertrand Showing me his finest and most expensive Rose wine “Clos du Temple”. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Gerard Bertrand Showing me his finest and most expensive Rose wine “Clos du Temple”. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Gerard Bertrand, Selma Fonseca and Thierry de Bailleul. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Gerard Bertrand, Selma Fonseca and Thierry de Bailleul. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Musicians such as Nora Jones, Earth Wind and Fire and Dee Dee Bridgewater have played at this major musical event in the heart of the vineyards where each night 1500 guests enjoy sit-down dinner in the chateau’s courtyard and a reserved seating concert.

This year’s performers were Craig David, Lisa Simone (Nina Simone’s daughter), Ben L’oncle Soul and Melody Gardot which took place on July 24 to 28.

I exclusively interviewed British musician Craig David, he told me why he had chosen to be part of this Festival and working on his new album: “The rose wine is great.  I spoke to Gerard about the actual vineyard and what they’re trying to do.  I didn’t know that they’re not just organic. They’re trying to go to bio organic which is one stage further and then looking at the astrology and the lining up of the planets and how the solar and lunar effects on natural plants which is amazing because I love astrology and I’m very much to my metaphysical side of things.”

“The astrology of the place…I love that, so the fact that I got the opportunity to take them both back and to perform. The one thing I’ve realized the more time I’ve been doing this is that when I first started it was about how many records can I sell.  Not even that, it was that can I have a number one record.  As a young kind, you want to prove to the world…now I realize it’s actually about giving people a form of healing without having to preach, It’s a vibrational thing. You could be going through a bad time in your life, or depression, or a bad day.  You hear a song, it can completely shift you out of that vibration. My thing is I’ve realized that actually when I perform, I like to think I’m giving people positive healing that all of a sudden, they forget all their problems.  Every day you’re bombarded with politics and this situation’s happening and this is where the world’s coming to an end, and then there’s me who’s like let me sing you “Fill Me In” or “Nothing Like This” or “I Know You.”  For me in a certain career of longevity to realize that that’s your actual calling.  Your calling isn’t about how many records you sell.  Not for me anymore.  I’m actually living the dream because it’s not about a statistic.”

Craig has a great presence on stage and connects with his Audience, everyone was singing along. At the one-hour plus show he sang his hits “What if”, “Heartline”, “What’s your Flava”, “Fill Me In” closing the set with “I know You” and “7 Days”.  

He also told me he is very close to finishing an album:  “For me, writing an album is still really important.  I think there’s a lot of artists that don’t see the album as being that important anymore.  I think they realize that albums are very much becoming a thing of the past.  The streaming world and the way in which people want music, it’s playlists.  It’s instant songs.  It’s not bodies of work, but I’ve come from that body of work mirror and it’s important to me, so finishing an album, which I love.  Actually, I’m very excited about it. I’m still in the process.  The best part of it is like 80 percent of it.  The last 20 percent is usually the most fun because I always end up…the last 20 percent becomes the whole 80 percent.  Everything happens in the last 20 percent because the level is here, and I know I have to push it, and then some scenario will happen with an artist that I didn’t expect, and the next thing you’re talking and then you’re in studio and all of a sudden, you’ve got a whole new album and also, I like to take it not only just around like the UK and Europe, but also to go to America with the album and to…and its reinvention.  With the US, it’s different.”

He talked about his friendship with Justin Bieber and how he would love to make songs with him when the opportunity came around and if it’s organic because “I’m always one to never try and push, push, push, push.”

He also said, “I think Ariana Grande as a vocalist, she’s unbelievable.  I like her. Seven.  Anderson Pack.  I’d go Rick Mill.  I’d go the hip hop guys. I always feel like Mary J Blige when she was doing R & B and hip hop.  She’d be fantastic.  I’m just open.  Ella Mae, for example.  Like I was in the studio with her maybe 6-8 months before she had the huge record with Boot Up and then tripping.  I just love it being with people who are on the come up and then they have the hit and you’re part of that.  It’s exciting to me because then you’re part of the journey as opposed to being reactive and saying, oh, I want to work with this person because they’re doing well.  Bruno Mars would be great, as well.  He’s unbelievable.”

He explained to me how sometimes his songs comes to him while he is sleeping, “When I sang “I Know You” with Bastille… that song, the melody came to me with that [singing the song]… I promise you, in a dream that I had, and I woke up and I was like, “I’ve just got to put this down,” and the next thing, I was in the studio and then I was starting the melody and I called Bastille to ask if he would like to work on it.  He said he was like 15 minutes down the road. It was so organic.  He said he was finishing a session and he would come on after.  The next thing you know, bam, we had a song together.  So, the universe has a plan, and it aligns you, and I just know that if you’re in the right place at the right time and you’re passionate, it’s everything.”

On Saturday Jon Bon Jovi’s son, Jessie Bongiovi, who in 2017 collaborated with Gerard Bertrand on making “Hampton Water” Rose wine was at the Festival for just one day, I meet him at a lovely lunch at one of Gerard’s estates “Domaine de Cigalus”, Jessie told me how after dinner he was going to drive back to Barcelona, he has been traveling around the world promoting the wine.

On Sunday Lisa Simone and Big Band de Garonne gave a stellar performance with a collective of 20 musicians directed by Philippe Léogé, Narbonne Mayor and local politicians were cheering from the front row.

“Are you ready for the party? We are gonna be here for 88 minutes” Simone said making the crowd very excited.

She sang mostly her mother’s Nina Simone songs “Do I move you?” and “Wild in the Wind” saying, “Tonight’s concert was built on my first album Simone on Simone, and it is a tribute to my mother”

Before the concert, I sat with Simone backstage for an exclusive interview, she revealed to me: “My new album is called In Need of Love, it is coming out on the 18th of October on Elektra France. And my big break-out concert is on the 28th of February, 2020 in Paris,” she continues, “then you will see me with my trio. I’m a World Music Artist now which I am really happy about because that means I can just flow in and out many genres because that’s what I’ve always done. That’s what my mom has done. It’s natural. I don’t even know what the big deal is. I think it’s the music executives.”

She continues, “Because when I was a kid and you listened to the radio, you might hear Frank Sinatra and then after that you would hear Tina Turner, right afterwards…  After that you might hear, Mama Cass and The Mammas and the Pappas. So, there was no real format that was a specific type of music. I was raised on all kinds of music. Then of course you have Nina Simone, Mary Mccabe, Abbey Lincoln, and Otis Redding, Freddie Pain and Doris Day was playing in my house. So, you know there was no limit…”

“That’s how I come to the stage when I perform. I have something for everybody. If you’re an artist, you’re an artist. And uh putting us in a box is very limiting and it can be downright insulting,” she strongly said. “You see me here doing the big band. Then in February you’ll see me doing Reggae and Rock and Folk.”

She also talked about doing more Broadway shows: “Before I die, I think I will close the circle by going back to Broadway.”

She closed the concert set by singing “Return Home”. 

Simone just released a new single called “Right Now”. The music video you are officially introduced to her daughter ReAnna who’s in the video with her and if you subscribe to her YouTube page #LisaSimoneRightNow you also get to see the making of, which gets you the ‘behind the scenes’.

Visit the official Jazz a 'l’Hospitalet website

Ben L’oncle Soul and Gerard Bertrand. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Ben L’oncle Soul and Gerard Bertrand. Photo by Selma Fonseca

Chateau l’Hospitalet Vineyards. Photo by Marine Duplan

Chateau l’Hospitalet Vineyards. Photo by Marine Duplan