HAPPY Chinese New Year! As I’m sure you knew, today marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit.

And one group of guys will be celebrating harder than anyone this side of the Yangtze River. They are, appropriately enough, the Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band… and this, says frontman ‘Baron’ Stuart Macbeth, is their year.

A rousing, carousing, 14-legged, brass-blasting, trilby-hatted party monster, the Rabbit Foots (as we’ll call them, to keep things simple) are the most stylish thing to have come out of Oxford since the Bullnose Morris.

This pinstriped, seven-piece, jazz-swing-jump-blues band are as far removed from the mainstream, independent and underground music scenes as it is possible to get. And therein lies the secret of their appeal.

“We play fast anarchic dance music based on traditional jazz,” says Stuart.

“I’m obsessed with early black American dance music but grew up listening to punk and reggae, so we have combined the influences. A good jazz band will play as lively as a punk band – and with even more anger and conviction.”

Stuart, who lives off Abingdon Road in South Oxford, launched the band in 2006 as a washboard, banjo and harmonica threepiece with its first gig at Oxford’s old Hollybush Inn.

Since then it has grown into a chaotic beast, boasting saxophonist Muggsy West, trumpeter Paul ‘Bunny’ Eros, trombonist ‘King’ Martin, bassman ‘Buzz’ Booker, guitarist and banjo player ‘Blind’ Bill Fadden and drummer John ‘Hurricane’ Gannon. With the exception of Bunny, who’s from Sioux Lookout – a speck on the map of Northern Ontario – all are Oxfordshire lads.

This week the Rabbit Foots release their debut album called The Year of the Rabbit. “It’s all pure chance that’s it’s also the Year of the Rabbit,” grins Stuart.

While their live shows are a captivating blend of jazz and swing classics going back to the 1920s, the album, recorded at the Coldroom Studio in Cumnor, is all their own work.

“I wrote all the songs and we have jammed them out at gigs until they’re good,” he says.

“There’s no difference in style between our own songs and the old tunes we play live, though the subjects do differ.

“So instead of singing about New Orleans paddle steamers or prohibition-era Chicago, our songs are about seaside holidays, steam trains and going down the pub.

They celebrate the launch with a gig on Saturday at the Jericho Tavern, fresh from a show at cult DJ Gaz Mayall’s Rockin’ Blues night at London’s St Moritz club.

It promises to be a wild night from a band who have ignited crowds everywhere from Truck Festival to Bestival and Glastonbury, where they will be back in action this summer.

So, if you have yet to see them in action, what can you expect?

“Mayhem!” he says proudly. “Whether we’re playing a club or a festival, we’re often the loudest thing on the bill, which you might not expect from a band that traces its roots back to Louis Armstrong.

“Jazz music is born out of slavery and oppression but has all too often been watered down to be pumped out as background music and easy listening. We are about capturing the essence of the music. And we seem to appeal across the generations from teenagers to people who grew up listening to the new wave of British jazz bands.”

They take their name from a vintage black touring troupe, while the term ‘spasm’ is a reference to the bands who played New Orleans at the turn of the last century making music with homemade instruments.

They are almost as well known for their legendary propensity to party, and their penchant for a tipple. Stuart is diplomatic and refuses to divulge any of their wilder moments, inflaming my curiosity by sniggering at the memories of wild nights, japes and scrapes.

Being a dapper bunch of chaps I suggest they must also get their share of attention from the ladies. Stuart snorts. “Most of us don’t get much attention, but the older guys do. We once had a drummer in his 70s, who used to play with Acker Bilk, and he was dragged off stage by four girls. We found out later his day job was a vicar. He quit the band soon after.”