Does Charleston have the nation’s ‘hippest’ mayor?

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg joined members of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in what was called an "“informance." (Brad Nettles/Staff) 4/15/16

In between relocating the city’s homeless and mediating development disputes, Charleston’s new mayor spent a few moments Friday doing something else he’s passionate about.

John Tecklenburg sat down behind a grand piano at Burke High School and joined members of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in what was billed as an “informance.”

The mayor told the few hundred students who filled the auditorium he always was interested in music, but he grew interested in jazz after a college classmate invited him to see Monk perform at Carnegie Hall in 1974.

“It was just incredible,” Tecklenburg recalled, saying the concert inspired him to pursue a new direction in music. “I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ve been working all my life to learn to play jazz piano.”

He began with Monk’s standard, “Well You Needn’t,” then was joined by vocalist Lisa Henry for a rendition of “Every Day I Have the Blues,” a song on which Henry coaxed Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait to sing a few bars.

They were joined by jazz saxophone recording artist Dayna Stephens and seven students from Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Their brief concert, emceed by jazz educator Dr. J.B. Dyas of the institute, was followed by workshops. Charleston was one of five cities selected for its free jazz education program this year.

Dyas talked about how jazz is uniquely American and embodies national values of teamwork, ethnic diversity and listening to one another.

While Tecklenburg’s Friday morning performance was not his usual routine, his affinity for music is well known — from his performing at the Charleston RiverDogs’ season opener to penning his own campaign song last year to his long-standing gigs at Gennaro’s restaurant. He has called playing his “release,” his “therapy.”

“I think Charleston has the hippest mayor in the country,” Dyas said.

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