By Tony Binns
CALGARY – Betty Lou’s Library likes to keep things on the D.L. Sure you can just walk-in, but we’d suggest making a reservation in advance; you have a set an appointment time and are given a password. The password gets you behind a creaky door that looks like a bookshelf. And, when you step inside you are thrown back to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz age, complete with period décor, Tiffany lamp shades, velvet couches and signature cocktails. Betty Lou’s library is an intimate space — there’s a good chance you could be sitting close enough to the drummer that he could lean over and ask how your drink is. But if you like a little ambiance with your jazz, it doesn’t get any more atmospheric than this.
Allison Lynch is a local actress and jazz singer who has been playing Tuesday nights at Betty Lou’s Library all September long. According to multi-instrumentalist Lynch, the nostalgic style of the room suits her perfectly. “I sort of feel like I was born in the wrong era,” she says. ”I grew up listening to classic jazz, because my parents are both jazz musicians. That music feels like you are stepping back in time.”
Lynch feels that there is a jazz community in Calgary, but much like Betty Lou’s if you aren’t in the know it can be difficult to access. “People who aren’t involved in the jazz scene, I’ll often hear from them, ‘There’s no jazz here at all!’ But actually there is. You just have to do a little digging to find it.”
Reflecting on the status quo, she remarks, “It’s an ambitious community, the people are extremely talented, there are some really top-level jazz players in the city. There are just fewer venues for them to perform in.”
This is where an establishment like Betty Lou’s Library can make all the difference. Lynch acknowledges the hard work of festivals like Jazz YYC in trying to promote the local scene and create a sense of community, but nothing generates buzz quite like a hot nightspot that serves an exceptional double-smoked Manhattan.
Lynch is elated that Betty Lou’s has brought in a different audience for jazz. “It’s cool to see interest from people of all ages. There are people who are there for their 18th birthday and there are also people in their 60s or 70s saying, ‘This is my music!’”
Make reservations for Betty Lou’s Library at https://www.bettylouslibrary.com/reservations/Allison Lynch, Betty Lou’s Library