In a previous life I lived for a few years in England. During that period I participated in the extraordinary project that called The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band. Some might consider this an obscure claim to fame: however it has been scientifically proven that on days when US Air Force cargo jets are not taking off from RAF Brize Norton, the ORFSB is in fact the loudest human-produced noise in Oxfordshire.
Of course, it took my departure from the UK for the guys to really find success, and these days they play regularly outside their native county, including London’s 100 Club, the Glastonbury Festival, and pubs in the less smelly parts of Berkshire. Earlier in the year they even managed to find enough money for fuel to drive down the A40 to Cheltenham for the annual Jazz Festival:
Their first album, Gin and Sympathy, is a good introduction to the band’s music, and certainly offers 350% more fun for five quid than you can get on Park End Street on a Friday night.
Stylistically, the Rabbits plant one foot firmly in the traditions of pre-war jazz. (The other foot is firmly pushing through the crowd at the bar to order another pint). Semi-autobiographical originals (Booze Cruise and Nappy Head Rag) sit alongside classics like The Saints and I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, as well as a Sheik of Araby who seems singularly proud of his lack of underwear.
And yet there is a serious project behind the band’s exuberant, devil-may-care stage persona. This band shows that jazz played in the old style can be not only be fun, but actually attract young audience in venues normally reserved for rock acts. I am reliably informed that at their gig at The Cellar in Oxford on Friday night, the queue to get in stretched well out the door.
The band’s singer and pianist, Stuart MacBeth is involved in an advisory capacity at the British National Jazz Archive, and it is his deep knowledge and enthusiasm for the music and its history that offers authenticity to what might otherwise be perceived as a novelty act.
Despite the reverence for tradition, the Original Foot Spasm Band are a thoroughly modern, networked outfit. You can pick up a digital copy of Gin and Sympathy on Bandcamp (for just 5 pounds), and follow the band on Twitter and Facebook.