An Internet search for the Fu Kun Wu Lounge in Seattle, Washington's Ballard neighborhood, reveals one patron's assessment of it as "one of the best kept secrets of the Seattle Jazz Scene." Many of the city's dynamic Origin Records stars perform in the converted Chinese herbalist's shop; players like pianists Bill Anschell and Marc Seales, saxophonist Hans Teuber and bassist Jeff "Free" Johnson. So how the lounge remains a secret is a mystery.
Pianist/entrepreneur Jon Alberts, the owner of Fu Kun Wu and the attached Thaiku Thai Restaurant, puts his piano chops on display in the lounge too, with Jeff Johnson and drummer Tadd Britton. Apothecary puts the sounds of that twenty-year musical relationship down for posterity.
The ever-familiar "On Green Dolphin Street" opens the set. The trio's fluid symbiosis gives the tune a drifting feeling and a spare freshness, Alberts displays a less-is-more approach, with a beautiful feel for the melody. Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing" is pared down to its angular essentials. Albert plays with a delicate touch, wasting no notes as Johnson and Britton search in, out and around the tune's intricacies.
Miles Davis's "Nardis" is taken at a ruminative pace, followed by Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," pulling the sound in an edgy and fractured up-tempo groove. The trio explores the spare beauty of guitarist Mick Goodrick's "Summer Band Camp" with understated elegance.
The trio then revisits Monk, rumbling into "Mysterioso" before settling into a restrained turbulence. Again, less-is-more, with facets of the melody flickering like small lightening flashes in the roiling bass/drum backdrop.
Bill Evans' "Turn Out the Stars," Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," and Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," closing the show, were recorded live in the Fu Kun Wu Lounge. The subdued crowd noise at the beginning of each performance, and the scattering of enthusiastic applause at the wrap-up, gives the sound a Bill Evans Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961) vibe.
Apothecary, an excellent piano trio outing, shines a fresh light on some time-tested tunes.