Fredrick Weathersby and Stefan Forbus run Monday Night Jazz with a specific vision in mind: maintain North Nashville’s rich musical history while adding their own mark to it — and provide a platform for others to do the same.
Weathersby, an experienced horn player and multi-instrumentalist, joined forces with Forbus, a saxophonist, when they met as students at TSU, later forming the jazz ensemble The Real Deal Duo. Both Nashville natives, their roots run deep in Music City. Weathersby’s parents are also TSU alums, his father a trumpeter and pianist while his mother is an African drummer, violinist and was named Miss TSU in 1974. Meanwhile, Forbus’ family has connections to music royalty. His grandmother owned a hair salon on Jefferson Street and was the personal hair stylist for legends including Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross when they’d travel through North Nashville, performing at venues like Club Del Morocco, the New Era Club and many more in the 1940s through 60s before they were bulldozed to make way for I-40.
“Nashville was a cultural hub for Black music in America, which is part of the reason why Nashville is what it is today,” Weathersby explains to Urbaanite. “There were a number of people that came through Nashville and cut their teeth in the music scene and learned their craft in Nashville on historic Jefferson Street in historic North Nashville.” Now, Weathersby and Forbus are the modern day trailblazers establishing a space for musicians and creators at all stages of their careers to showcase their talents through Monday Night Jazz, a concept developed by Forbus in 2016. Now in its fourth season, Monday Night Jazz originally began at Ella Jean’s Cafe on Meharry Boulevard before moving to Mogul’s Barber Shop & Lounge on Buchanan Street. It’s current home is at Local Distro, owned by their former classmate, William Radford, Forbus and Weathersby being intentional about hosting the event at Black-owned venues.“Even though we support diversity and inclusion, our goal is to spearhead the ethnic vibes in Nashville. There’s not another place where you can go in Nashville consistently that has a show that’s owned by Black people,” Weathersby affirms. “Our audience is curated. Everybody there is somebody special.”
It’s a self-sustaining concept where Forbus and Weathersby draw from the vast well of resources in the area, including community partners like Sharon Kay of Fisk University’s radio station WFSK, Victor Chatman of the Jazz on the Cumberland series and many more. The event serves multiple purposes, not only as a place for entertainment in the heart of the Black community, but allowing local talent an opportunity to shine. On the fourth Monday of each month, the event turns into the Monday Night Jazz Carnival, a longtime dream of Forbus’ come to life.
It calls to mind memories of when he used to frequent the UniverSoul Circus in downtown Nashville as a child, equally as mesmerized by the live music performers as he was the snake charmers and jugglers. Now, he’s created his own circus curated from local performers including fire dancers, aerialists (including his fiancé Dominique Young) and roller skaters who dazzle alongside local musicians, poets, speakers, belly dancers and the other types of creatives that flock to Monday Night Jazz. It also draws an eclectic array of vendors ranging from the Garden Family weed delivery service to a crystal salesman, face painting and food trucks. “We figured it would be wonderful to invite the other different styles of performers in the community to join in with our carnival and to expand our reach in terms of our goal to spearhead the ethnic vibe in North Nashville,” Forbus shares. “Music is parallel to history and to everything that’s going on our artistic realm.” Part of adding their mark to North Nashville is providing a platform for people to share their voice through their chosen medium, whether it’s an amateur musician who feels inspired to perform a Johnny Cash cover or a graduate student who transforms a piece from his thesis into a monologue.
At the core, Monday Night Jazz aims to help the local community grow by bringing people of all backgrounds together while allowing each individual’s genuine voice to be heard. “Having the chance to express themselves fully, that’s one of the functionalities that we serve. Everybody has a voice and has music in them, so we allow people to fully express themselves, no matter what their style or means of expression is. We give people a chance to be the intellectual version of themselves and to be greater than what they are. It’s about finding our tribe and creating a synergy,” Weathersby professes. “It’s a place where you can go and be your true self.”
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