This may not be the rarest of Soundies, but it certainly is one of the best. With Count Basie’s orchestra providing the music, and Jimmy Rushing the vocal, how can you miss?

Born in Red Bank, New Jersey, William (Count) Basie honed his jazz chops in nearby Harlem, then came to musical maturity in the Midwest, absorbing the blues-drenched sounds of Kansas City and all points south. The Bennie Moten Orchestra, with which he played between 1929 and 1932, performed the blues regularly, and more so Basie’s own orchestra. In Jimmy Rushing, the band had the finest blues shouter, pop singer, and balladeer in 1930s jazz. Jimmy was with Basie from the beginning and would be featured with the band until 1949.

“Take Me Back, Baby” was one of the Basie band’s and Rushing’s featured blues performances, one that they recorded on September 24, 1941. It was a natural for a Soundie, although the producers decided to turn the number into a “song-story,” rather than a straight band performance.  Rushing, who never played a reed instrument, is seen playing alto sax. He falls asleep and the story begins!

A few things to look for and listen to. Jimmy’s girlfriend is dancer Winnie Johnson who is often seen as an extra in Soundies. Be sure to read her lips when she discovers Jimmy’s “little black book.” This datebook is composed mostly of made-up names, although the first on the list is “Lulu White,” a famous brothel madam in New Orleans’s Storyville sector. Jimmy’s vocal is fabulous, and the band is in great form, with obligatos from Basie, Tab Smith on alto sax, and Dickie Wells on trombone.

Count Basie’s band only made two Soundies (the week of October 27, 1941). Why he was not afforded the standard four titles is not known. Cost? Or perhaps availability? I, for one, would have been happy with a dozen more.