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Haydn Seek

October 23, 2008 By:
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Lili Haydn
Lili Haydn has strings attached to community and to her musical muse: The acclaimed violinist veers from sad to snappy on her latest CD, "Place Between Places," infused with insight, and an insatiable and intuitive yearning for finding that corner of the world that is hers.

Certainly, there have been a few: Daughter of the late, luminous comic Lotus Weinstock -- a scion of the socially standout and humanitarian Philadelphia Berger/Weinstock family, whose merry matriarch, the late Lucille Berger, was, in granddaughter Lili's loving words, "like an Auntie Mame character for us all" -- she expressed her sorrow at her grandmother's local funeral as best she knew how: with a serenade of sadness that seemed to stretch the heart from each string she played on her violin.

And if there is an element of a hippy/happenin' fury unharnessed by her work, the 33-year-old musician first learned to commune with nature raised in a commune. Allowed to choose her own name as she grew up, she winged it with "Helicopter."

Sikorsky was already taken.

But she was taken with her lifestyle, cherishing the fact that "until I was 12, my name was actually Cherub."

And if nongenetic matrimonial lineage could include former flames, it seems only natural she inherited the post-punk posture of her late mom's onetime fiance, Lenny Bruce.

Talk dirty to her? Lili's is as clean and green an act as is imaginable.

And now "Place Between Places" places her between rock and a hard, placid look at life, with influences such as her teenage singing stint at L.A.'s Viper Room; snaking alongside her work opening for/recording with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones, B.B. King and Chaka Khan; connecting her to a global musical gestalt.

It all strikes the right chord for the Brown University grad whose poli-sci degree synchs with some of the sounds she makes on and offstage. In a way, she was an "Obama girl," writing flowingly and floridly for the Huffington Post that "Barack Obama is inspiring us like a desert flower."

Rooted in Judaism -- her "Faithful One" faithfully fulminates on belief -- the virtuoso's virtuous affinity for life speaks through the strings of her violin. And it all emanates from Lililand, that place of places she roams and rooms in that sets her music so apart from others, a land in which she can combine her commitment "to discipline and relaxation."

Lili putting us on? No, it's a small world after all, and there is that cosmic chord -- and cord -- that links us all, she claims.

As Haydn celebrates a recent week of acclaim -- including an appearance on "The Tonight Show," and singing the national anthem at a pre-playoff Dodgers game -- she seems star-spangled spunky, a rocker with roots to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where Haydn and Brahms shared some suite time together.

Respect Aplenty

She is woman, hear her roar -- and perform -- in a picture-perfect career that includes her roles as a child actress. (Was it really a quarter-of-a-century ago when she ate up scenes at age 8, playing Rodney Dangerfield's disrespectful daughter in "Easy Money"?)

She gets all the respect she needs from an industry in love with Lili. "And it all goes back to the women in my family," Lili notes of Lucille, "a paradigm of elegance and philanthropy," who, with Lili's mother, Lotus, "were two amazing models of what it meant to be feminine and powerful and intelligent."

Smart choices made during her career resonate from those Philly roots, from a bubba who bounced ideas and iconoclasm in conversation as if they were bowling pins to be juggled in a sidewalk show.

"She made everyone feel special; and my life is richer for having known her," she says of Bubba Berger.

Religion has been a rich source, too: "The Shema, unity with God ... that is the theme of" some of her recordings, notably "my lyrics in 'Satellites.' "

Religion and Judaism are in her orbit for a good reason: "When I look at the world, it can be a scary place. When I lost my parents, I felt so alone" -- Dad was artist David Jove.

"You watch the news, it's so scary out there. The humanitarian crises make one pause. This world can be a troubling place, but the Shema tells us that God is everywhere."

And in the details, which flow from her bio like a cascade of accomplishments. "As I get older, I see where I have a choice," relates Haydn. "It's easy to get depressed in the music business, but I have to do it, face the challenges."

Face the music? "I rely on life's romanticism, its beauty, even in the face of darkness," she says.

A light goes on. "It's a Jewish thing."

It's Lili's thing, Haydn seek: "I'm passionate about human rights; I don't know if that's altruism, but it's the right way to be."

And, as she writes her records, she records her heart. "It's actually very selfish of me," she says. "It all has to do with my passion for fairness."

A fair trade act: Offer her talent for a chance to telescope the topsy-turvy world that surrounds her. It is no mystery she is involved in Kabbalah. "Not in a dilettantish way," she avers, "but as part of a community. I have always been into mysticism."

Misty-eyed? No, clearly focused, which is why her recent trip to Israel was such an eye-opener. "It was a little bit sad and heavy," she says of the experience, "and also very interesting to see a lot of people who look like me."

Looks like it stacks up in a complex way when compared to L.A. "There's a subtle form of anti-Semitism in Los Angeles," she relates. "There is simply no apology for being Jewish in Israel."

The heart is a lonely hunter, and what pours out of hers is from a porous past. On her new album, the hauntingly lovely "Last Serenade" serenely salutes her late mother, all a gift from God in some ways, she explains. "It was given to me when Mom was on her deathbed, in a coma, and I felt I needed to get Mom's spirit to play though me. These were the notes given me."

The grace notes of a great artistic and emotional rendering, "Place Between Places" is a place in the heart, "that time between life and death, that moment of awareness."

Lili's moment in the sun is a crowning corona of critical praise and public warmth fanned by her cosmic connections. Had she not been the writer/singer/performer she is now, she would have possibly "been a lawyer," she says, but she is more pleased her docket is filled with performance dates these days.

And if she has the jones for improving society through song and sound, is it really all that surprising that one of her favorite movies is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"?

"You know," the musician muses of that movie's moxie, where the little guy is a steward of common sense, standing up against the establishment, "that's a very Jewish concept."



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