You can surely name some female jazz singers. These two hope you’ll soon be able to name some female jazz composers too.

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22min 23sec
Courtesy Annie Booth/Alan Baylock/Erika Kapin Photography
Annie Booth, left, and Alan Baylock noticed a dearth of female representation in jazz composing. So they decided to do something about it, and so Brava Jazz Publishing was born.

Women have always had a lot of the big names in jazz: Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. These artists broke barriers in the male-dominated genre; the trails they blazed are carried forth today by other women.

But for women who want to publish jazz, roadblocks have always stood in their way. Now, a new company based in Lakewood is giving women a whole new platform in the genre.

Brava Jazz Publishing was born out of a collaboration between Alan Baylock, a renowned jazz composer and educator, and Annie Booth, a gifted composer, arranger, and pianist. As the director of the Grammy-nominated One O'Clock Lab Band at the University of North Texas, Baylock noticed the scarcity of big band charts by women at major publishing firms. His encounter with Booth during a presentation for the UNT Jazz and Gender Equity Initiative sparked a realization that they could make a difference. 

Brava Jazz Publishing was incorporated in the fall 2022 and officially launched on International Women's Day, March 8, 2023. Their diverse catalog offers big band music composed and/or arranged by women, catering to all levels, from middle school to professional.

For Booth, her journey into jazz began at age 11, fueled by her musician father and a nonprofit..

“I really found my passion for jazz through a great nonprofit based here in Denver called the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts, which has been around for over 20 years now,” Booth said. “[It] connects like-minded teens in the Denver metro area who are interested in learning jazz and connects them with mentors who are professional jazz musicians. So once I got involved with CCJA, everything totally changed and I was just totally hooked,” Booth said. 

Baylock's love for jazz was ignited by hearing Miles Davis albums at a young age.

“I heard it at home. My older brother was a trumpet player and he brought home some Miles Davis albums, and at first I had no idea what was going on, but I loved the sound and I loved what I learned to be the freedom and the creativity of jazz,” Baylock said. 

Both musicians found inspiration in the genre, yet noticed the gender inequity that existed throughout jazz history and the present. Their vision for Brava Jazz Publishing was to provide a centralized resource for exceptional music composed and arranged by women.

Their new company aims to elevate the voices of women composers and arrangers in the field by publishing professional engravings and recordings of their work. Baylock and Booth are dedicated to showcasing the unique and unapologetically feminine perspectives of female jazz artists. 

Booth said she didn’t have any female jazz mentors back in high school. 

“And so from a distance sort of, became enamored with certain female jazz musicians who I would meet later on once I was older and, and had a career.” 

One of those people was multi-Grammy winner Maria Schneider

“I saw her play with her big band at the University of Northern Colorado when I was in high school. And that changed my life seeing her in front of her big band and hearing her music, and I didn't know her, and I didn't know her music. And that experience is something I think about all the time,” Booth said. “I was 15 years old and I was in the audience and I got to see someone ... who was like me. You know, she was a woman leading a band full of all men.”

Brava Jazz focuses primarily on female-identifying composers and arrangers. However, they also include a few esteemed male arrangers who have worked on pieces composed by women, but these instances remain a minority within their catalog.

They are planning to record an all-female jazz orchestra to provide model recordings for composers and arrangers, expanding the reach of their music.

Jessika Smith, a saxophonist, composer and educator, works with Brava, composing from Portland, Oregon. 

Smith said they just got goosebumps when Booth and Baylock invited them to join the Brava Jazz roster. 

“I've spent 20 years of my life usually being the only female on a bandstand, frequently creating my own opportunities to perform … to hear my music be played, and I think that there's just a problem,” Smith said. “And I think that focusing on the problem and talking about the problem that there's not enough females doing this, is the only way to fix the problem.” 

Smith says to bring it up, particularly with those just starting out.

 “Every time I have my students out at a festival or we're watching other groups perform I say, ‘Do you see all the girls in that band? Do you see all, do you see how there's no girls in that band, or the only one is the piano player?’” Smith said. 

Award-winning pianist, vocalist, guitarist, and composer Camilla Vaitaitis is based in Denver. She said the importance of the opportunities BRAVA Jazz is creating can't be overstated. 

“This mission of Annie and Alan is really gonna open the door for not only like school band directors, middle school, high school, college, but also professional band leaders to just be integrating the amazing compositions that women are writing because it is a bit underrepresented at the moment,” Vaitaitis said. “I think if people have kind of a one-stop shop where they can go find really good music written by women, it's just gonna improve the diversity within the big band realm, at large around the world.”

Vaitaitis said Brava Jazz lays the groundwork for young women to naturally be integrated into what they're playing. 

“It'll be diverse music written by women,” Vaitaitis said. “And it won't even be a question.”