I’ve recently been listening to this excellent album from 1997, Violet Leighton’s Speak Low.
It came a bit out of the blue at the time, on the the Blu Jazz label which was set up by Bill Grainger specifically to release a record on Violet, if I remember correctly. Bill had done very well in the previous few years with the Clubscene label, which served a very different kind of music remarkably successfully, being the dance music beloved of the M8 dance scene of the nineties. It was a huge scene for a while, post-rave but a lot more energetic; its Beatles was TTF, its drugs were Buckfast and Kensitas Club; its Detroit was Bathgate, the home of Clubscene.
You could sell pretty much anything on the Clubscene label and we would wait eagerly for the rep to arrive in the shop with the latest releases. Often they were white labels in paper-sleeves, but they would sell immediately and it was sometimes hard to keep titles in stock. In Glasgow anyway, Clubscene releases would often outsell the current top chart singles.
So, when Bill saw Violet performing in a club, he had the means and desire to fund this record, which was a departure for him in featuring the cream of Scottish jazz musicians (Nigel Clark on guitar and production, Brian Kellock on piano, Mike Bradley on drums and the master of bass, Ewen Vernal) backing Violet on a selection of jazz standards – Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, etc. The band also essayed two great Stevie Wonder covers, “Visions” and “Tuesday Heartbreak.”
I don’t quite know why I’ve been listening to it again so often after all this time – it might be a wee, recent fascination with the Gershwins’ “Embraceable You” – but I guess quality is eternal.
I remembered also in August of 1997 trying to think what a good night out for three couples in Edinburgh would be, where the six in question had widely disparate or even indiscriminate musical taste. Violet came to the rescue as she had a gig in Edinburgh that night…
It was one of my best decisions, everybody loved it.
I seem to recall Violet was backed only by Nigel Clark on guitar and Ewen Vernal on bass and the show was a triumph and not just for me. We also sold quite a few copies of Speak Low in the Megastores in Edinburgh and Glasgow (Violet is from Glasgow) around this time.
Violet is still doing some gigs, usually in Glasgow. I don’t know if you can still buy this album, though.