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John Eaton might bristle at being dubbed a Washington institution, but for jazz buffs, he’s as much a part of the local scene as the monuments on the Mall. A great-grandson of an operatic baritone, the D.C.-born pianist studied English literature at Yale but, in his own words, “succumbed to my first love, jazz, and became a professional musician.” After apprenticing as a sideman and fronting his own band, Eaton led the Blues Alley house trio between 1968 and 1972, backing a host of legendary musicians including Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Thad Jones, Zoot Sims, Bobby Hackett, and Maxine Sullivan. Following another extended stint as solo pianist at Georgetown’s Billy Martin’s Carriage House, Eaton reinvented himself as a concert artist and lecturer, performing more than 200 American Popular Song programs at the Smithsonian and Wolf Trap. This week, Eaton returns to Blues Alley for the first time in 28 years to celebrate the release of his new Chiaroscuro CD Live At Steinway Hall, a solo collection of George Gershwin and Harold Arlen standards. Regarded by critic Nat Hentoff as “the complete pianist… [a] bemused master of just about the whole spectrum of jazz language, ” Eaton will appear with his frequent musical collaborator, bassist Tommy Cecil. Along with the polished pianistics, you can expect a few pensive, whiskey-voiced vocals and some wry between-tunes commentary from a man who, should he ever decide to abandon the keyboard, could earn a handsome living as a raconteur. At 8 and 10 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $16. (202) 337-4141. (Joel E. Siegel)