Jazz singers are like goalkeepers, their talents tend to mature later, after they've had a bit of match practice of one kind or another. Violet Leighton agrees. ''It's the daft things you do and the bad things that get done to you that make you what you are as a person and a singer,'' she says.

Leighton is reflecting, in a break from recording her first album, on her swift rise to prominence on the Scottish jazz scene. In the two years since she started singing jazz she has become the woman most likely to follow Carol Kidd on to the international stage, a singer whose voice's natural timbre lends itself perfectly to jazz and yet one who has kept her goals to herself for long periods.

At 39 she is, she says with a certain bashfulness, ''lucky to be getting a second chance to pursue my dreams at a time in life when most of my friends are settled down.''

But in the beginning, singing wasn't so much a dream as an escape. While most musicians' CVs cite musical households, Leighton and her three sisters grew up in a music-free home in Scotstoun, where their parents fed them a cultural diet of Panorama and politics.

Movies became, and remain, Leighton's passion. Then, in her late teens, she became the singer with a young rock band, a situation she relinquished when one of the band decided he wanted her in his life, but not in his band. So, she groans, she stuck with the day job. In a typing pool.

For 11 years. In the same seat. Result? ''Brain damage,'' followed by escape to London.

While temping by day in London she got work at night in a recording studio, demo-ing hopeless songs by people who fancied their chances in the music business but who have, uniformly, disappeared without trace. One of her temping clients did put her in touch with someone who was going places, Mike Stock, later of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. Stock liked Leighton's voice and asked if she wanted him to make her a star. To which her Glaswegian down to earthness made her respond in such a way that caused a metaphorical trapdoor to open.

A spell of weekend work in Yorkshire clubs - ''great experience, singing all kinds of music, but as second place to the bingo'' - was cut short when she took over from her sister as a full-time carer, looking after their mother who has Alzheimer's disease.

After two years her mother had to go into a home. Leighton wanted to give singing another try - but first she had to regain her confidence.

Rollin' Joe, 1950s rocker around Glasgow's pubs and clubs, knew her of old. He kept trying to persuade her to sing - and three years later she relented. She sang Bessie Smith's Gin House Blues, stopping the Monday night crowd in Wintersgills mid-conversation, and hasn't stopped singing since.

Jazz writer and broadcaster, the late Jim Waugh, heard her and encouraged her. Harmonica player Fraser Spiers, who heard her belting out Janis Joplin and Etta James-style raunch and blues, said ''You should be singing jazz'', and acted as go-between between Leighton and her musical director, guitarist Nigel Clark.

Clark has been an invaluable mentor. Sitting in the control room at Ca Va Studios, just behind Sauchiehall Street, he gently adjusts her phrasing, praising her when a take is good, and generally reassuring her.

''He knows me musically better than I know myself,'' she says. ''We do a version of Stevie Wonder's Visions on the album and I didn't want to do it at first. But now I've heard the arrangement, I love it; it's one of my favourite tracks.''

The album, Speak Low, is released by dance music specialists Club Scene Records, an unlikely-sounding outlet perhaps, but Leighton's music has been pronounced ideal for chilling out to by the hip young things who run the label.

Featuring pianist Brian Kellock, bassist Ewen Vernal, and drummer Mike Bradley from Clark's quintet, Speak Low's release is due to coincide with Leighton's Glasgow International Jazz Festival appearance at the Tron Theatre on July 2. Before then, she has gigs on the Renfrew Ferry (tomorrow), at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes (Thursday, May 29), and at Dundee Jazz Festival with Martin Taylor (Tuesday, June 3).

She also has a residency at the Inn on the Green restaurant in Glasgow, where among her duties is to sing Happy Birthday to celebrating diners. As she goes off to do just that, with her version of Marilyn Monroe's Some Like It Hot feature, I'm Through With Love still fresh in mind, you can't help feeling that, one day, rather than complaining that she inadvertently got their names wrong (she wears

a hearing aid, which is no impediment to her singing), serenadees will brag about

the experience.