Pianist, musicologist and humorist John Eaton is considered one of the foremost interpreters of American music in Washington D.C. inner circles. As a featured player at the Kool Jazz Festival and a mainstay of the Smithsonian’s Performing Arts Jazz series, he has given more than 200 sold-out lecture-concerts for the Smithsonian Institution on American popular song in both the nation’s capital and around the country. 

Local audiences have an opportunity to hear Eaton Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. when he will offer a unique combination of “ultra-tasteful jazz and fascinating observations” in the Green Center’s Thompson Recital Hall on the DePauw campus.

The Yale graduate was named to the Steinway Concert Artist roster in 1988. During the past three decades, he has appeared both as a soloist and with such legendary artists as Zoot Sims, Benny Carter, Clark Terry and Wild Bill Davison, from shows at smoky jazz clubs to a command performance in the East Room of the White House. 

Eaton’s insights and pianistic talent have earned him accolades from music critics, listeners, and fellow musicians alike. Mike Joyce writing for The Washington Post opined, “pianist John Eaton practices a special kind of alchemy. He takes the familiar and makes it fresh, renders the old new and exciting. It’s no easy trick, but Eaton is a master at it.” 

For the “Jazz, Blues and Broadway” concert at DePauw, Eaton will perform music from the vast treasure trove of American popular song, including a selection of solo jazz piano renditions from his album Indiana on Our Minds, featuring music of two of Indiana’s favorite sons: Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael. 

Porter — a native of Peru, Indiana, and a major composer for the Broadway stage in the 1930s and ’40s — is famous for such classics as “Night and Day” and “Anything Goes.”

Carmichael, a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame, was inspired to write “Stardust” on the campus of his alma mater, Indiana University-Bloomington, then first recorded it in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana, with the Dorsey brothers, Emil Seidel and his orchestra. The melody is not only an American standard, but also one of the most recorded songs of the 20th-century, with over 1,500 recordings of it by a wide array of artists from Louis Armstrong to Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan.

“[The] nostalgia for these fabulous songs lives on,” says Eaton. 

Admission to Thursday’s piano jazz concert is free. No tickets needed.