rahsaan roland kirk - "if i loved you" (from the bright moments lp, available for purchase here.)
perry como - "if i loved you" (from the greatest hits lp, available for purchase here.)
when i was younger, i would get upset w/ myself over the fact that i wasn't as into jazz as i would have preferred to be. it made me feel terribly bourgeois. but as i grew older, and more familiar with both tin pan alley and the great white way, i found my love of jazz grew proportionately. i figured it'd be kind of me, then, to post a version of rodgers & hammerstein's ballad "if i loved you" in its most popular form, perry como's #3 pop hit of july 1945.
this is no kick against perry como. the comparison is not meant to point an accusing finger at perry, saying "he's so square." they are two different songs; two different eras; two different styles. perry's version is outstanding : it hems close to melody, it carries across the lyrics, and the vocal is beautiful, w/ wonderful control and warmth. it is buttoned-down, pensive, and moving.
kirk's version, on the other hand, is something else entirely. until the end, perry plays his hand close to the vest; w/ kirk, though, it's no question of if he loves you : the man is already onto the next step. the sound of his sax is throaty and raw, it begs and pleads and burns so hot that one is amazed he keeps his hands on the keys.
rodgers set up a melodic everest for both singer and saxophonist right at the end, a perfect showstopper. it's thrilling to hear both men scale it; but kirk does so three times. i've heard the song countless times now, yet each time i still wonder if he'll make it and am floored each time that he does. at the end, someone in attendance calls out, "that was mean!" you're damn right it was, as mean as como is sweet, both men taking the song to different places, but always via the same direction : endlessly heavenward.