Malvern’s Abbey Jazz Club to Relaunch as: jazz@MRFC


With effect from January, 2018, Malvern’s Abbey Jazz Club will be renamed: jazz@MRFC.

For over 22 years, Len Thwaites has been the creator and organiser of Malvern’s Abbey Jazz club at the Malvern Rugby Football Club. Now, Len has decided to retire from running the club so he can just enjoy playing. So he has asked me, Phil Probert,  to take things over with effect from January, 2018. I hope I can show a tenth of Len’s judgment and skill, which has made Malvern one of the most enjoyable gigs in the Midlands!

It’s also the case that we aren’t a Club with a capital C – all are welcome and simply pay at the door.

First things first: Len has asked me, Phil Probert, to rename the club, so henceforth we’ll be jazz@MRFC. My contact email address is: [email protected]

For musicians who haven’t played at Malvern, we have a good room with a capacity of over 60 people, and an average attendance of 40 – 50. We work every other Sunday evening with playing hours 8.00 – 10.30pm.

Over the years, we have become known mainly as a club that features small band swing, but that’s by no means exclusive and we host dixieland, traditional, gypsy jazz and jive music from time to time. Mouldy Fig, we ain’t! Like most clubs, we aren’t rich either!

Phil Probert

As I take over responsibility for jazz@MRFC, I’ll be assisted by my wife Yvonne, to whom I’m deeply grateful for her patience, administrative skill, and tolerance of cold knees at 3.00am. (I’m a working musician!)

We both feel passionately about encouraging younger musicians and will be happy to hear from them, while underlining one strong personal belief we both hold – Jazz is for entertainment and that means reaching out to your audience, communicating with them and caring about their enjoying what you’re doing. In my 20’s I played in a Liverpool band led by the late, great Ken Sims, who memorably told me: “You don’t play the instrument, nob, you play the audience”. That’s what they like at Malvern.

I look forward to seeing you at jazz@MRFC.

Phil Probert

Thank you Len!

Len Thwaites

Len Thwaites Hands Over Abbey Jazz in Malvern

After more than 22 years, bass player, Jazz Club organiser and all-round good egg Len Thwaites has handed over the reins of the Abbey Jazz Club in Great Malvern.

Len has had a long career in Jazz, starting as teenager in his home city of Hereford. From there, he went on to work and tour with some of the greatest names in UK Jazz, including Pete Allen, Bob Wallis, Monty Sunshine and Alex Welsh. When Len and his wife Betty decided to launch Abbey Jazz Club in Malvern in the mid-1990s, the names in Len’s Little Black Book included some very tasty potential guests.

After basing itself in a couple of Malvern pubs, Abbey Jazz had a stroke of luck when Malvern Rugby Club offered to host the club on alternate Sunday evenings. Apart from a room with superb acoustics, excellent ale and being in a great location, what really helped the club to prosper was the Rugby Club’s friendly and supportive committee and staff. That continues to this day.

A Variety of Jazz by a Variety of Musicians!
From the start, Len decided that he wanted to offer a variety of jazz styles by a variety of musicians. It’s no exaggeration to say that over the years, Len effectively “trained” a willing and supportive group of Club regulars to like most kinds of small band jazz and swing. As any working musician will agree, I think, an audience receptive to fresh experiences and a wider repertoire is worth travelling to! And so, over the years, Abbey Jazz has enjoyed some of the most rewarding and exciting nights many of us have experienced. It’s also the reason why Len has been able to invite top bands to Malvern for relatively modest fees – they know they’re going to enjoy their visit.

One of Len’s true gifts is his command of Jazz “chemistry” – somehow he knows uncannily well who will swing with whom, and who won’t. So a distinguishing feature of Abbey Jazz under Len’s management has been the “Club Night” format – effectively jam sessions. I’ve had the pleasure of playing in rhythm sections at Malvern now for about 15 years, and I have had some astonishing nights when head arrangements have morphed into delivered performances that would grace any studio. That’s what happens when you get talented people together who can relax in each others’ company and let the music do the work. And I have no hesitation in saying that a lot of the magic is down to Lenny Thwaites’ quiet influence and good taste.

Our Aim is to emulate Len’s successful formula!
Now Len has decided it’s time to let someone else – i.e. me Phil Porbert backed up by my wife Yvonne – to do the organising so he can just enjoy playing. Behind every good man, etc etc! We’ll be trying to emulate Len’s successful formula and we could not ask for a better inheritance. Thank you Len, thank you Betty, thank you Malvern Rugby Football Club (especially Jayne!) and thank you our lovely members without whom there’d be no point!

Phil Probert on behalf of jazz@MRFC

Jazz&Jazz Notes:

Abbey Jazz meets at:
Spring Lane
WR14 1AJ
The club is a friendly venue, which is easy to find, with plenty of car parking. Attendees are assured of a warm welcome and refreshment is provided by a well stocked bar, which also offers hot drinks.
For further information about Abbey Jazz, please contact:
Phil Probert: Tel: 01684 540506; email: [email protected]
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  1. Barbara Everett says:

    Sorry to hear Len is handing over the running of the club but it’s wonderful that Phil is taking on the job with Yvonne’S support. I’m sure you both will do a great job and I wish you all the best with this adventure. Love Barbara x

  2. Keith Tolley says:

    All best wishes for 2018 Phil, and if we can help out you know where to come.

  3. TerryT says:

    Best wishes and thanks to LEN and his wife Betty for the tremendous work you have done to keep OKOM alive in South Worcestershire. The club will be in good hands with Phil and Yvonne’s input.
    Poor health has had an effect on my attendance at MALVERN. Its a great club with friendly welcoming people. I do hope fans realise they must “use it or lose it”. Good luck, Phil. Hope to see you soon.

  4. tad newton says:

    All the very best with your venture Phil!

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