Library jam session: East Cleveland Public Library Sunday concert series wows audiences

If you’re a music lover and haven’t been to the East Cleveland Public Library (ECPL) for the monthly Sunday Concert Series, you’re missing out.

“It took a lot of years to make this happen for the city of East Cleveland,” says Greg L. Reese, who served as ECPL executive director from 1988 until 2008 and now serves as the coordinator for the Sunday Concert Series. “It’s a very positive experience.”

Live music has been a staple of ECPL’s regularly scheduled events since Reese began his 23-year run at the Library. 

“Previously, I organized live music shows during my time with the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and I brought that concept to East Cleveland,” he says. “We began hosting shows in the library’s lower auditorium. By the 1990s, we began to collaborate with the Tri-C JazzFest—attracting nationally recognized artists.”

Past performers from the Sunday Concert Series includes Sammy DeLeonPast performers from the Sunday Concert Series includes Sammy DeLeonIn establishing regular live music at the Euclid Avenue library, Reese says his initial goal was to find ways to bring more Black males into the library. He concentrated on creating a wide variety of special programming that would be of interest to the community. 

“If it wasn’t Shakespearean literature, it could be something else,” says the East High School graduate. “I’ve been a jazz lover for years, and I’m a former sax player, so I thought, ‘how about featuring music in the library?’ And it grew from there.”

Reese says the concert series, as well as other programing, brings the performing arts to the community in an environment that is comfortable, entertaining, educational, and engaging.

Past concerts this year include Hubbs GrooveEddie Baccus Jr., Dominick Farinacci, and the Tri-C JazzFest Academy’s Spirit of the Groove, the Patrick Bartley Trio, the Unit Band, and Sammy DeLeon’s Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Show recordings are available on the Library’s YouTube channel

Current executive director Carlos Latimer says he is quite pleased with the success of the music series in library's Greg L Reese Performing Arts Center, which he says has been well-received by residents and neighboring communities.

“We constantly receive positive feedback after performances,” says Latimer, noting that the library has been able to provide free concerts with financial support from the Cleveland Foundation and, most recently, the KeyBank Foundation.

“Many of the attendees can’t afford some of the performing and cultural arts available at other venues throughout Northeast Ohio,” says Latimer, “and our concert series is a true destination for them.”

Evelyn Wright & Mike Cady of the JazzkeepersEvelyn Wright & Mike Cady of the JazzkeepersThe first half of the 2024 ECPL Sunday Concert Series concluded on Sunday, June 2 with a performance by Jazzkeepers, featuring some of Northeast Ohio’s premier musicians: band director/pianist Dr. David Thomas, bassist Kip Reed, saxophonist Chris Burge, and drummer Bill Ransom (of the Bill Ransom Trio).

Guest vocalists were Cleveland mainstay and 2008 Tri-C Jazz Legend Award winner Evelyn Wright and native Detroiter Mike Cady. Wright has worked off and on with Thomas for the past 40 years.  Many may remember their sets from some of Cleveland’s notable (and, unfortunately, now defunct) music venues—The Reason Why, the Boarding House and Club Isabella.

Collectively, the band members have more than 280 years of musical experience. Individually, they’ve performed with music greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Gino Vanelli, Stanley Turrentine, Joan Rivers, Harry Belafonte, Harold McKinney, Barry White, David Sanborn, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, James Moody and many others.

By 2:45 p.m. a line of approximately 40 concertgoers—many dressed in their Sunday best—wound its way through the lobby of the Library. The doors to the Greg L. Reese Performing Arts Center wouldn’t open for another 15 minutes. By 4 p.m., the 230-seat auditorium was nearly at capacity. 

“Today’s performance is really outstanding for me because of the level of the musicians that are playing,” Thomas said at the time of the show.  “We don’t always get to play together, but when we do, it makes for a great situation. The good thing about community events like this is creating a desire that has people wanting to come back to hear this level of musicianship, and that’s the overall goal of what Greg is trying to do—providing a core of talented musicians and raise the bar, keeping the allure of live music happening.”

The ECPL Sunday Concert Series runs from January to June and August through November. There are no performances in July or December.

The music returns Sunday, August 25 at 4 p.m. with Akron’s Real Deal—the emperors of old school R&B. As always, admission is free, and there’s open seating. Check the Library’s website and social media pages, in coming weeks for more information on future concerts.

Nate Paige
Nate Paige

About the Author: Nate Paige

Nate Paige has worked in local journalism for more than 25 years, most of which was spent at as a copy editor, community editor, hyperlocal producer, entertainment reporter, and social media coordinator. He got his start in the business at the Cleveland Call & Post. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.