Oxford's vintage jazz masters The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band pull a night of surprises and virtuoso musicianship out of their hats with a knees-up to remember

  • Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band
  • O2 Academy Oxford

Stuart Macbeth prowls around the stage like a man possessed. Which of course he is – possessed with the hedonistic spirit of New Orleans jazz and blues. And that same fiery freewheeling sound which made Bourbon Street jump for a century, is tonight doing the same to our very own Cowley Road.

Over the past decade, Oxford’s Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band have been doing things no sane person would have believed possible for a jazz band.

Grasping an accomlished, but deeply unfashionable style of jazz, they stripped it down, souped it up, and used the turbo-charged result to get crowds jumping everywhere from Glastonbury to the Royal Albert Hall.

Their music tips a respectful nod to the past but is original and, in contrast to its roots, is as British as it comes. More than that, it’s a very Oxford sound, referencing local places and people.

Their hometown knows that when the Rabbits are out, the party is on, which is why Friday’s Knees-Up was well and truly sold-out — with a crowd as eclectic as the band themselves. And the place started jumping from the first bars of opener Vine Street Blues.

Part of the magic of the Rabbit Foot’s appeal, is their ability to make their freewheeling shows feel chaotic and dangerous — as if about to fall apart any minute in boozy oblivion — while being incredibly tight and professional. The band may be partying, but their collective virtosity shimmers through.

Tonight their talent was matched by a clutch of special guests in the shape of washboard player Darren Price, an outlandishly attired Gemma Moss, and blues singer Julia Titus, from Reading – whose voice peeled paint from the ceiling in startling renditions of Santa Claus is Back in Town and a heartbreaking Amazing Grace.

The show ended in suitably bombastic style with the brassy ranks of the Temple Funk Collective, who abandoned the Craig Charles Funk and Soul show, with whom they were appearaing downstairs, in favour of some Rabbit action.

By the time the band finished on their traditional National Anthem finale, we were spent – having danced and sung our hearts out to the last. At least we’ve got a year to recover for the next one.

Oxford Mail:

Taking a whisk: Darren Price onthe washboard: Picture Dawn Fletcher-Park