Likeness to Lily is a Brooklyn band, featuring singer-songwriter Susan Oetgen, pianist Tony Melone, bass player Ian M. Riggs and drummer Evan Pazner*. Formed by Susan in 2003 after a ‘blessing-in-disguise’ vocal injury sidetracked her opera career, Likeness to Lily is named in honor of her great-grandmother, and for an old legend which declares that these mythic flowers will bloom out of the dirt wherever a saint sheds her tears.
Distinct for the classic lyricism heard in Susan’s melodies, and for the adroit harmonies and rhythms cultivated by Tony, Ian and Evan, Likeness to Lily’s songs are musical portraits of the world they inhabit, at once intimately confessional and operatically universal, modern and timeless. Susan’s writing is at the core of each composition. Much in the same way that classical composers set poetry to music, Susan translates her words into melody, which in turn becomes the raw material of the band’s collaborative arrangement process. Song arrangements vary from scored parts to conversational, dynamic improvisation, given Susan’s opera background and Tony, Evan and Ian’s shared jazz chops. The end result is a musical alchemy that reflects an ever-expanding circle of influences that range from Baroque opera and 19th C. French melodies, to Tin Pan Alley classics, to Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, and Loreena McKennitt, all the way to Cynthia Hopkins, Jeremiah Lockwood, Howard Fishman, Pyeng Threadgill, Aprille Goodman, Chris Parrello and so many other friends and colleagues in Brooklyn’s thriving indie-music scene. Easy to recognize and hard to define, Likeness to Lily’s music is, above all, true to its own sweet soul.
In March 2008, Likeness to Lily premiered an original multimedia song-cycle entitled Bazm-o-Razm on the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Music off the Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum, featuring chamber musicians from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, original drawings and projections by artist Justin Waldstein, Iraq War photos by Pulitzer Prize-nominee Alan Chin, and choreography by Sahar Javedani. Bazm-o-Razm was reprised at The Performance Project @ University Settlement in May 2008, at Galapagos Art Space in December 2008, and on the Music on MacDougal Series in January 2009.
The quartet plays regularly in the downtown music clubs of New York City, and occasionally in other East Coast cities from Washington, DC to North Bennington, VT. Releases include Solitude’s Dollhouse (2005), which features the song ‘Jewelia’, as heard on A&E Television’s prime-time reality show, Random 1, and Farewell, Recruit (2008), which contains the complete music of Bazm-o-Razm.