Michel Leeb was born in 1947 in Cologne, Germany, to a German father and an Italian mother. He made the French happy with his imitations, his theatrical performances and his love of jazz.
Gérard Bertrand : Hello everyone, this is the seventh live Wine, Food and Music, we are on May 29th we are at Chateau l'Hospitalet we have the privilege to have a multi-talented guest since he is at the same time crooner, writer, humorist and man of theater, welcome to Michel Leeb.
Michel Leeb: Hello, how are you?
Gérard Bertrand: it couldn't be better, I'm very happy to have you here and I would like to introduce you to our chef Laurent Chabbert who has been doing virtual cooking for three months, from Tuesday 2 June he opens his kitchens and we are impatient. So if you're around here because I know you're in Provence, you're not very far if you're in the Languedoc, you're welcome. In fact, he did the spring, autumn, summer and winter menu at the same time and he worked a lot for four months.
How's the containment going then? Or the de-containment, for that matter.
Michel Leeb: Yes, because that's right, we've all been locked up for two and a half months now, but fortunately I've put that period of time aside for writing, so I'm writing, I've written a play, I've written my next spectra, which I've worked on a lot. I worked a lot and here we are, so now, well, we're going to start again little by little to breathe, to live, to find friends we love, our family etc etc etc and it's going to start again. It's an incredibly curious, strange, resanctiogenic period for many people, but now I think that life has to start again, probably more than before.
Gérard Bertrand: so Michel is what we can do anyway, we have a tradition, it's to toast to your future successes. We're going to taste together the ballerina, which is a Crémant de Limoux rosé that I sent on lattes.
Michel Leeb: I have some here.
Gérard Bertrand: So we're going to start by having a drink, Michel, right? It's time.
Michel Leeb: Yes, I think it's time, that's the most important thing.
Gérard Bertrand: Cheers Michel
Michel leeb : à la votre
Gérard bertrand : health
Michel leeb: health
Gérard bertrand: and to the health of all the listeners who are following us.
Michel leeb: here they are, looking at us.
Gérard Bertrand: exactly
So the chef started with the amuse-bouche Michel
What did the chief offer today?
Chef Laurent Chabert: So to accompany the ballerina, I made a vegetarian Rolls with carrot, cucumber, a little bit of garden salad, Radi, beetroot that we made into pickles, there's celery too, in return we made a turnip that we cut very thin. And here, I'm going to add some nasturtium leaves for the peppery taste...
Michel Leeb: we can't hear well, I prefer him to show me because I can't hear anything.
Gérard Bertrand : go ahead, get closer, he'll show you...
Chef Laurent Chabert: So this is a small vegetable scrubland with lots of small nasturtium flowers and nasturtium leaves.
Gérard Bertrand: That's my little privilege, Michel, I'm sorry.
Michel Leeb: That's harsh because I want to.
chef Laurent Chabert : fleur de sel, olive oil, it's fresh in fact it's for summer.
Gérard Bertrand: So it's very good to whet your appetite like that Michel, I remember an anecdote. My father who died thirty years ago now, he was a fan of yours and so I was in a restaurant with him in Provence, I don't know where and my mother. So he said to me, "There's Michel Leeb across the way, you gave him a big smile and that made his evening, because you've already put a few years of your career behind you. What I'm passionate about is that you were first known for your sense of humour. But is music what you like the most? What is it that transcends you the most among all the talents you have?
Michel Leeb: You know, I really like what I do when I do it, so when I play a play, for example, right now, soon with Pierre Arditi, I'm really enjoying it. When I sing at L'Hospitalet with Big Bands, Dominique Rieux, I really enjoy it. When I do a one-man show all by myself and I tell all kinds of stories, I make mimics, gags, sketches and all that, I enjoy it. When I'm eating good food, I'm enjoying it. When I drink drinks, I enjoy it. When I live, I enjoy it.
Gérard Bertrand: So you're a disciple of who? Of Epicure?
Michel Leeb: And yes, of course, and that's what life is all about, taking advantage of everything we have.
Gérard Bertrand: But what did you start with Michel, theatre or music?
Michel Leeb: I started out in the theatre and then I did a one-man show. And the music that was part of my life, that's still part of my life, I said to myself, one day I've got to do something on stage but musically. So I did a jazz concert with two, three musicians and then there were four, five, six, there were Big Bands that I had the chance to meet when I was in charge of the Nice jazz festival.
Gerard Bertrand: I saw that.
Michel Leeb: Well, for several years I met all the musicians I loved when I was a kid. I was a jazz fan all the time, all my life, so when I had the chance to meet all those musicians and in particular the musicians from Cambezi, ohlala. So ask all the jazz musicians who is Cambezi, you'll see that the guys are going to do somersaults. So I went to see them, I said I would like to make an album with them. He told me "how"? I said I'd like to make an album with them. He said, "That's fine, go back to school. I tell him wait, wait, I'll give you two, three examples. I started humming in front of them, they said well, you know what, if you have the courage, we'll take it like we say the fuckers, and well, listen, you know, we'll take you on tour. And I went on tour with them. We made an album and when you tour with the band album, well, listen afterwards, well, listen afterwards...
Gérard Bertrand :So we're happy because you're standing in front of your piano right now, can we go on tour right now?
Michel Leeb: Yes, well, I'm going to play you a little bit, wait, I'm going to do it like this, there you go, you see the piano?
Gérard Bertrand: Yes, I can see that very well.
Michel Leeb: But you don't see me anymore.
Gérard Bertrand: We can see that you're doing fine.
Michel Leeb: Wait, so I'm going to play you a little trick.
"It's Gérard Bertrand's blues, he likes it from time to time, he's a big kid, and his music is his tomatoes and carrots. Music is Chef Chabert's cooking, I love Bertrand, he's always pining, it's good to have a guy like that who gives happiness to all the people who come to eat here all the time, oh yeah".
Gérard Bertrand: Thank you Michel for that improvised intro, there you are, we can see you now. So that's what's great about jazz, is that the improvisation is total. And even if there were on a canvas, we've got some extraordinary examples. The one that impressed me the most, right here, you know, was Maceo Parker who was James Brand's saxophone and then he came twice: the first time he came, he played for three hours. He did a 21-minute sax piece, everybody was in a trance, it was extraordinary. And you, among the Americans, what is the top two or the top three of your references?
Michel Leeb: It's difficult, there's Coltrane, Rollins, Malzéville, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, all the Big Bands, cambezzi, Duke Ellington. The singers, so there's one singer there's no two and it's Sinata and he's the only one and all the others are kids. There you go and there are of course singers, one singer and there are no two, it's of course the fidgerald Diana Kral whom I like a lot and then there are some great French singers. I had a wonderful friend who's not here any more, who was Charles Aznavour and Charles Aznavour was, for me, the French Sinatra, so to speak, and here are some musicians...
Gérard Bertran: I'm impressed by James Brown's voice.
Michel Leeb: Yes of course I love it, I love it.
Gérard Bertrand: Did you see when he sang with Pavarotti?
Michel Leeb: Yes, it was magnificent.
Gérard Bertrand: It was extraordinary.
Michel Leeb: Wonderful and I like it when he moves on stage you know, Mickael Jackson was very much inspired by James Brown, very much inspired.
Gérard Bertrand: Exactly, and Michel, they say you move as well as James Brown on stage.
Michel Leeb: Yes yes yes of course yes yes yes yes yes yes. Mind your own business there.
Gérard Bertrand: No, it's true, with your friend you were talking about, Dominique Orieut there, so he did a tour with you and that's one of his best memories because he says that with you Michel, it's before, during and after, so you have to keep this conviviality, this good mood and I remember that before the concert you had dinner at our place château l'Hospitalet in 2007 and you drank a glass of wine. Is it something you often do before going on stage or not?
Michel Leeb: Yes, I always drink a glass of wine before going on stage because it's very good for the vocal cords. The tannin helps to grease the vocal chords, you know what I'm saying?
Gérard Bertrand: Yes, so I have a lot of memories because after the concert we certainly have the opportunity to have a drink with the artists and then there are two in particular, it was with George Benson because he came and he was extraordinary and he told me a bit about his life and then he said: you know me, I only drink chardonnay. So we opened a bottle and he finished it and he was in great shape and he told me about his life. After the concert he sang again in his dressing room, it was a great moment. And the second one was with Zucchero because he said "I want to eat I'm hungry" because he hadn't eaten and so we spent three hours eating. We brought him some ham because he is from Parma, or next door, so we had an evening like that and it's true that there is a lot of conviviality with the artists because when you finish there is a kind of slackening, isn't it? So you are hungry what and you want to drink something.
Michel Leeb: When I was in charge of the Nice festival, we set up a stage in an olive grove, a huge livery where 10,000 people could stand and we built the stage, but obviously we had to be careful not to damage the olive trees and we put the stage in a place where there was an olive tree that we couldn't touch. This is the only place where we could put the stage. And so the olive tree was in the middle of the stage, we pass the artists, a lot of musicians, singers, Joe Cocker, Al Jarreaux, James Brown, all these people, all these people come and one of them comes and says: so I'll tell you, there's no way I'm singing with an olive tree on stage.
Gérard Bertrand: your friend from Toulouse
Michel Leeb: My friend from Toulouse, I tell him Claude, I can't do autrement. He doesn't question it, I tell him, but Claude I can't, he came, Joe Jocker he came, Phil Collins they all came, frankly you can't do that to me. Well, I'll tell you what, I'll sing as long as you send me liters and liters of oil from this olive tree. And I kept my word, I sent him everything I could as oil extracted from this olive tree, there weren't many but I did it and he sang and he made a hit with dear Claude whom we love.
Gérard Bertrand: We have a special relationship because Claude Nougaro was actually a bit Catalan too and he had a house in Tautavel, in Roussillon, the man from Tautavel, but as it's wine that's put forward in the world, he often came there so this accent that you do, it's really him and we see the humorist that stands out.
Michel Leeb: And yes, I've done imitations, so many imitations that it's part of my thing.
Gérard Bertrand: So chef, what are we going to have now?
Michel Leeb: ah, the chef
Chef Laurent Chabert: so now I'm finishing my zucchini dish.
Michel Leeb: What's terrible is that we're not going to eat it.
Gérard Bertrand: So Michel, what's the dish you're referring to? What do you like to cook?
Michel Leeb: I'll tell you what, you're going to be very disappointed because my favourite dish is something very simple, Neapolitan spaghetti.
Gérard Bertrand: It's good by the way.
Michel Leeb: Yes, it's very good, but obviously I'm not, so I have a friend, Pierre Arditi, and I can tell you that he's a great specialist, so you obviously know that he must have come to you.
Gérard Bertrand: But he only drinks Bordeaux, so he's a nice guy, but he should start drinking Languedoc and Provence wines, shouldn't he?
Michel Leeb: But he has so many qualities, but in any case, he knows about food, I can tell you that he's also gifted, because he cooks, but I don't cook.
Gérard Bertrand: So Michel is going to come closer because, look at the beauty of the dish.
Michel Leeb: Bravo! So what is it exactly?
Chef Laurent Chabert: So the zucchini flower that was stuffed with a thin stuffing of lean, it's a Mediterranean fish, then inside I added a little bit of smoked mullet, savory flowers, and chives flowers. There we steamed, rosemary steamed, thyme steamed, everything you can find inla clape, a little lemon here, after a carpaccio of courgette on top and zucchini and olive just fried.
Gérard Bertrand: So Michel, I'll tell you, these are local and garden products that are organic, that are grown biodynamically and that are in partnership with all the local producers, so he only works with organic products and it's true that it's better when we can do it.
Michel Leeb : my wine is organic
Gérard Bertrand: Let's talk about it.
Michel Leeb: But that's not very nice of you because we're here, we can't even taste it, I like the show but...
Gérard Bertrand: That's why we're going to invite you, then Michel, we're going to toast with Château Hospitalet blanc, the new vintage so here, in fact it's a wink to remind you of those good times in 2007 when you came. Because I remember that you had asked for a good glass of Château Hospitalet red, so here we are, so, on the different estates you see, we try to magnify these terroirs and it is really a magnificent la clapeterroir.
Michel Leeb: He's really beautiful.
Gérard Bertrand: it goes very well with the dish but I'm not going to make the affront of tasting it Michel because I can feel you salivating so if on top of that, I taste it... I'll taste it later but Michel, I've been told that you have a vintage as prestigious as Romané Conqui, which is the most exclusive wine in the world.
Michel Leeb: So I'm going to tell you about it. I have one and a hundred hectares of a wine that I call the clos du tilleul, it's at home, because there's a huge lime tree that protects this vine and it's an extremely rare wine, it's a wine that's not affordable and it's remarkable because it's a wine, it's grenache and it's exceptional, it's an extremely rare wine, but there are still a hundred bottles for friends.
Gérard Bertrand: So you drink 4900 of them in a year.
Michel Leeb: I drink 4900 of them a year, it's not me who drinks them, no, it's operated by a big company.
Gérard Bertrand: friends of yours
Michel Leeb: that's what Oreto is called, it's a company that works very well here and a wine company and it's really very good and thanks to them I don't have to work this vineyard any more, work it, exploit it entirely and they give me the gift of a hundred bottles but it's at home.
Gérard Bertrand: Do you take part in the harvest?
Michel Leeb: No, because I'm always on the road and I'm never there, sometimes I see them, they come because it's a reasoned culture, it's really very good, it's very serious, it's organic and it's rooftop, like you.
Gérard Bertrand: It's a pretty name le clos du tes tilleuls.
Michel Leeb: the clos du tilleul (linden clos)
Gérard Bertrand: Lime tree, you could make a song out of it one day maybe.
Michel Leeb: Yes, but I'm not a songwriter.
Gérard Bertrand: in my opinion, you wouldn't have to force yourself too much to get there.
Michel Leeb: It's my son who composes, you know.
Gérard Bertrand: I know, he's not too frustrated that there was no ranking for Eurovision.
Michel Leeb: Of course I did, but he said it's good because it's the only year I wasn't in danger of losing.
Gérard Bertrand: Yes, there have only been winners.
Michel Leeb: There were only winners, so good, very good, so maybe next year we'll see, in any case, it still gave him a lot of publicity.
Gérard Bertrand: Yes, and is that with, between Tom and Fany and you, is what you've already done public shows.
Michel Leeb: So with my daughter Fany, I've sung a few times. I'd invited her for example to Paris at the Casino de Paris where I was singing and she came to sing with me Tom also he was on stage with me and moreover on Sunday we're doing a special leb at Drucker and so it's being recorded next Tuesday and it will be broadcast on June 28th. I'm doing a bit of publicity but anyway.
Gérard Bertrand: it's nice, it's good.
Michel Leeb : and so we're doing a special leb Tom Fany and me
Gérard Bertrand: And are the three of you going to play on stage there or not?
Michel Leeb: The three of us are going to do something.
Gérard Bertrand: Oh, that's great because Julio Iglesias also has two sons who make music.
Michel Leeb: Oh yes, I know Julio very well, he's very nice, he asked me to come with him, he told me, come with me, come with me, come with me to Argentina when I was very small and I didn't want to go there because I don't know it well, I don't speak Spanish well. But he was there, Julio said to me, it made me happy and I like it very much because I did Julio's first party at the Olympia...
Gérard Bertrand: Oh yes, and that's why I'm bouncing back on that, because it's a phenomenon too, and what inspired you? Because he's really an extraordinary man of the stage.
Michel Leeb: But opening for me, opening for Julio Iglesias at the Olympia, it was extraordinary because I introduced myself there was no presenter, I went backstage and I said: and now, ladies and gentlemen for you tonight exclusively opening for Julio Iglesias, the extraordinary, Michel Leeb. I'd come in and people would think someone was introducing me, of course I was kidding about that, but it was nice, you have to get by at the beginning.
Gérard Bertrand: Well, I actually really like his music and his songs and one day I was looking at it...
Michel Leeb: I haven't changed, still the same socks with holes in them.
Gérard Bertrand: I don't know if you know the anecdote but one day he was singing in Cadiz in Spain and it was raining, and at 10 o'clock in the evening we say it's raining, we can't play but stay the Julio will come and people were shouting Julio, Julio and they shouted like that until 5 o'clock in the morning, there was a flood of water and the concert took place between 6am and 9am and he says it was the most beautiful emotion I've ever had in my life because I waited for the night to play and there were 5,000 people who took the water on their heads.
Michel Leeb: And did he sing or not?
Gérard Bertrand: He sang yes.
Michel Leeb: At 5 o'clock in the morning?
Gérard Bertrand: Yes, it's extraordinary, I saw that report, it moved me, it was extraordinary, and people were just shouting and screaming.
Michel Leeb: I've got other anecdotes. I arrived in Grenoble, I was singing and doing my show, it was raining so hard on the place du général de gaule in Grenoble, and people had got into their cars, they hadn't got out of their cars because it was raining so hard in front of the stage, there were, I don't know, 200/300 cars in front of the stage.
Gérard Bertrand: sunrise
Michel Leeb: But that was right and well, I had to tell people what you hear and he was making lighthouse calls, do you hear me? I said if you applaud, you honk the horn, and if you laugh, you get your windshield wipers working. I swear it's true, and at the end they wanted to leave, the car ran out of battery power.
Gérard Bertrand : Yes, it's not bad, yes, you've got a lot of anecdotes like that, it's extraordinary.
Michel Leeb: ohlala, well that's what this job is all about, if you knew, I could tell you about it until tomorrow morning, but we have other things to do.
Gérard Bertrand: And you also did a few improvised concerts like that which lasted an eternity?
Michel Leeb: Well, yes, because if you want jazz, what is jazz is exchange and if the exchange is done well, it can last for hours and hours and hours. You were talking to me earlier about Maceo Parker's 26-minute solo, which means it was good, so it can last, but I've never been able to go beyond 6/7 hours of performance, never?
Gérard Bertrand : It's already good, at least ...
Michel Leeb: no no no no no no but well...
Gérard Bertrand: Do you have the same preparation when you go on stage for the theatre? Is it harder or easier than getting on stage when you're going to make music?
Michel Leeb: making music, I find it more difficult to go on stage when I play theatre rather than music because theatre, if you like, there's a real rigour which doesn't mean there's no rigour to the music but it's much more relaxed there's possible improvisations there's possible winks we can do a thousand things it depends, the theatre is rails on which you can't move and if you crash, you crash the others, good at music too, but the exchange is not the same, it's not the same thing.
Gérard Bertrand: Arditi and the others aren't a bit scared of you going off live just to lose them?
Michel Leeb: Yes and it's a very good question, it's a very good question because I have a tendency to try to plant the buddies but it always goes very well because they have a great sense of humour Pierre has a great sense of humour and he's very fond of this kind of thing he's a jouster and he likes to have fun and on stage, the first thing he said to me two days ago, even yesterday, he told me vividly that we're starting to have fun again.
Gérard Bertrand: That's great, that's great because ...
Michel Leeb: Because if you don't have fun, the audience won't have fun either.
Gérard Bertrand: Because I remember when you came for the, with the big bands brass, you were funny, you couldn't help but call out to the audience, our friend the sub-prefect who was there you put him in a bit of trouble so you are, you are in constant interaction but in a rigorous framework like the theatre, because the audience sees when you come out of the room they see when you improvise.
Michel Leeb: And he loves it.
Gérard Bertrand: He loves it because it makes the moment unique.
Michel Leeb: Well, when we laugh so hard and then we fail, there are moments when we can't move forward, there are moments when we can't move forward because we laugh so much that we can't move forward and the audience is over the moon, they're like crazy and I remember something, figure we were at the variety theater in Paris, I was playing a very funny play called 3 partout, a very funny play with lots of funny stuff it was a hit and figured that at some point, at some point, I'm shaking hands with a boy you know well, who's on television every day called Gérard Hernandez, he's on a show on m6 called je sais plus quoi. It seems to me that it's about couples fighting who I don't know how, Well, I shake his hand and while shaking his hand I was very elegant and very well dressed I say hello, my name is Jean François Thibault, and he makes me enchanted and when I shake his hand, I fart and I fart well. What do you want him to do about it? He says he's enchanted and he starts laughing uncontrollably and he says to me, he says this sentence to me because across the street, on the theatre and across the boulevard, there was Jean Lefèvre who was performing a play and he says to me: oh my God, and there's a lady in the front row who says: well, bravo, Jean Michel Lefèvre, he must have heard her, we lowered the curtain, we lowered the curtain because we couldn't continue to play. So these are the moments you're going to tell me it's not very fine but at the same time when it happens, that you can't stop laughing and well...
Gérard Bertrand: As you know, I have a rugby past, and we didn't always play with finesse either.
Michel Leeb: No, but here it is
Gérard Bertrand: And those are the best moments because you remember them and they become legends after you tell them to yourself. So Michel looked, the chef went on, look what he cooked for you.
Michel Leeb: ah it's beautiful, it's beautiful, it's beautiful, so what is it?
chef Laurent Chabert : So there, we cooked the cheek of Catalan pork, Catalan, next to Perpignan, there we braised it with thyme la clape for about 6 hours and red wine, then a piperade that I made with yellow pepper, red pepper and tomatoes, a little onion and sebête and here's the juice at the end that we reduced a little bit with a honey caramel.
Gérard Bertrand: so all these dishes will be à la carte Michel, and I know that you're coming to Narbonne in September with Pierre Arditi.
Michel Leeb: in October
Gérard Bertrand: In October, so when you, if you stay with us as we wish, you will be our guests and therefore the chef, all his dishes will be on his menu this fall, so you can really taste them.
Michel Leeb: And you ride a bike, Mr. Chabert?
Chef Laurent Chabert : a little bit yes
Michel Leeb: Oh yes, that's good because you have a nice cap and I thought it was a cyclist's cap.
Gérard Bertrand: And yes, you know, first of all he's an ally. So his parents are farmers, they're stockbreeders, so that's why he's familiar with meat.
Michel Leeb: Ah well, that's good, keep going.
Gérard Bertrand: So Michel, let's have a drink. So this is the last drink of the evening.
Michel Leeb : go
Gérard Bertrand: So this is the château la Soujeole one in Malperre. So it's one grand vin in the city of Carcassonne, you know, this estate, it's special because we have Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec like in Bordeaux and if you travel on Air France; we're going to advertise them right now because they really need it. You can drink it in business like the Sigalus or the Château Hospitalet. So a little nod to our friends at Air-France in the hope that the lines will open very soon so that we can travel a little. Cheers Michel.
Michel Leeb: Thank you for welcoming me to your home.
Gérard Bertrand: So can we end up with just three little notes of Michel's music before we leave each other? First of all I'd like to say a big thank you Michel, to tell you that it's a great moment and that I hope to receive you, both the man but also the musician and the man of the theatre since you're going to come to Narbonne. I also wish you a good resumption with Pierre Arditi. You have, we can say it, maybe a next play with Fany Cotennsson, which will start soon, right?
Michel Leeb: which starts on 14 November in Paris
Gérard Bertrand: There you have it, so you've got a lot of news, and I suppose that in 2021 you'll have
go back to the festivals for a while.
Michel Leeb: Absolutely, so I'll play you a little piece.
Gérard Bertrand: Thank you Michel, so we'll finish up a bit in music and then we'll see you very soon.
Michel Leeb: see you very soon, goodbye Mr. Chabert, thank you Gérard.
Gérard Bertrand : see you next Friday
Michel Leeb: So I'm making three little notes to say goodbye to you.
Gérard Bertrand : see you soon : thank you very soon
Michel Leeb: Hi