Story: Jim Dyar Photos: Kara Stewart
THE TRANQUIL VIBES OF ALLISON AND VICTOR
Allison Scull and Victor Martin are seated at a table near the spot where they typically perform at the Post Office Saloon in downtown Redding. On this afternoon, however, there’s not a guitar or saxophone in sight. No microphones are set up to welcome the duo into their usual position.
Still, bar patrons know who they are.
“They’re adored here in the North State,” says Reggie Bordsen with a tone that indicates that he means business. “Everybody loves them. They really do.”
Bordsen raves on about Martin’s sax playing, and calls Scull’s voice “angelic.”
Martin makes a wisecrack about paying off fans to say the right things at the right moments, then lets loose with a booming infectious laugh. Just a bit later, another musician walks into the pub and beams upon seeing Martin and Scull. He hurries over for a hug and pleasantries.
Martin and Scull tend to have this effect on people. The same scene could have unfolded in a lot of places they perform – Napa, Weaverville, Grants Pass, Ore., Mount Shasta, Hayfork.
Known (and booked) as simply “Allison and Victor,” the duo has performed consistently across the region since 2002. They’ve played a vast array of venues and events, from club shows to private parties to winery open houses and everything else you can think of. They’ve graced the stage of the Cascade Theatre (opening for the Blind Boys of Alabama), and performed in an expanded format in August at the Trinity Alps Performing Arts Center.
Their sound blends elements of folk, jazz, blues, European and Latin music, all of which translates into a laid-back, tranquil vibe that tends to put people at ease.
“If you’re putting your heart and soul into it, I think audiences pick up on that,” says Martin. “When we look up and see people smiling and having a good time, it’s feels like we’re doing our part to bring a little peace into the world. Live music is such a powerful healing force. It’s medicine.”
December saw the duo release a new album, “Cool Like the Breeze,” which features six songs written by Scull (including the title track), one by Martin, and two others. The album was recorded by Ron Davis (sound engineer for the Monterey Jazz Festival) at his Wing and a Prayer Production studio in Central Point, Ore.
Martin arranged all of the tunes and the album features a variety of musicians, including pianist Grant Levin, drummer Tom Stamper, bassists Bill Vallaire and Glenn Richman and percussionist Theresa McCoy.
“We’re excited to get the CD out and share it with the world,” says Scull. “We were able to get the fuller sound we were after with a very talented crew of musicians and an excellent recording engineer.”
Adds Martin: “We worked hard to expand the sound, but keep the integrity we started with. We broadened the scope. It’s richer and bigger.”
A native of Delaware, Martin began playing saxophone in junior high and continued his studies through college at the Wilmington School of Music. After joining the Army, he toured in a rock band while stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash. Over the years, he’s performed with the likes of Grammy-winner Joe Henderson, Kitty Margolis and Curtis Salgado.
Scull, a twin, came from a Navy family and spent her childhood living in either Belgium or La Jolla, Calif. A choir class at the San Diego School of Performing Arts helped spur her passion for music.
In 1998, Martin saw Scull performing her original tunes at the Nutglade Station in Dunsmuir and was impressed. Later, Scull asked Martin to play on her 1998 solo CD, “Allison St.”
It wasn’t long before they began performing together, with Scull’s songwriting and acoustic guitar style making for a cohesive fit with Martin’s jazz sensibilities. Martin also sings harmony and lead on some tunes, and plays percussion.
“The cool thing about Vic is he’s openminded enough to think of a singersongwriter as a choice to do music with,” Scull says. “We have so much fun when we play. We love the audience interaction. Each night, the energy of the crowd makes for a different experience.”
In addition to the new album (available at live shows and on their website – allisonandvictor.com), the duo has also released “Allison Scull and Victor Martin Live” (2006) and “From the Back Burner” (2002). They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Craig Chaquico, Shana Morrison, Archie Lee Hooker, Kelly Joe Phelps and blues legend John Hammond.
When Scull and Martin travel to perform, they often stay with fans who have grown into close friends over the years. It’s a continuation of the afternoon experience at the Post Office Saloon.
“When we’re on the road, we feel little bits of home,” Scull says. “We’ve built these little networks with people, and these people pretty much make it possible for us to do this.”
“You find out that a lot of people out there in the world are good,” adds Martin. Or, perhaps it’s Martin and Scull who continually bring out the good in people. Either way, it continues to be a sweet sound.•
Catch their CD release party on Friday, January 29th, at Vintage Wine Bar, 1790 Market St. Redding, CA and see them again at Vintage on Valentine's Day. Sunday, February 14th.