Joseph Jarman

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Joseph Jarman
Born(1937-09-14)September 14, 1937
Pine Bluff, Arkansas, U.S.
OriginChicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJanuary 9, 2019(2019-01-09) (aged 81)
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresAvant-garde jazz, free jazz
Years active1961–2019
LabelsDelmark, Black Saint AECO, India Navigation, Music & Arts

Joseph Jarman (September 14, 1937 – January 9, 2019)[1] was an American jazz musician, composer, poet, and Shinshu Buddhist priest. He was one of the first members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.


Early life[edit]

He was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, United States.[2] Jarman grew up in Chicago, Illinois.[2] At DuSable High School, he studied drums with Walter Dyett, switching to saxophone and clarinet when he joined the United States Army after graduation.[3] During his time there, he was part of the 11th Airborne Division Band for a year.[4]

The AACM and his solo band[edit]

After he was discharged from the Army in 1958, Jarman attended Wilson Junior College, where he met bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, and Anthony Braxton. These men would often perform long jam sessions at the suggestion of their professor, Richard Wang (now with Illinois University). Mitchell introduced Jarman to pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, and Jarman, Mitchell, and Maghostut joined Abrams' Experimental Band, a private, non-performing ensemble, when that group was founded in 1961.[2] The same group of musicians continued to play together in a variety of configurations, and went on to found the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1965,[2] along with Fred Anderson and Phil Cohran.

Jarman's solo recording career began at this time, with two releases on the Delmark label which included material, such as spoken word and "little instruments", that would later characterize the sound of the Art Ensemble.[3] The band he fronted and used during these recordings between 1966 and 1968, included Fred Anderson (tenor sax), Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Charles Clark (bass), Christopher Gaddy (piano) and Thurman Barker (drums). However, in 1969, Clark and Gaddy both died and Jarman disbanded his group.[2]

The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Equal Interest[edit]

Shortly after his bandmates Clark and Gaddy died in 1969, Jarman joined Mitchell, Maghostut and Lester Bowie (trumpet) in the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble in 1967; the group would be later rounded out with the addition of Don Moye on drums. This band eventually became known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AECO).[2] The group was known for being costumed on stage for different reasons; Jarman wore facepaint and has mentioned that it "was sort of the shamanistic image coming from various cultures."[5] The group moved to Paris in 1969, and lived there for many years in a commune that included Steve McCall, the drummer who went on the form the jazz trio Air, with Threadgill and bassist Fred Hopkins. Moving back to Chicago in the 1970s, Jarman lived in a musicians' building in Hyde Park, in Chicago, with Malachi Favors as his roommate. In 1983, he moved to Brooklyn, New York from Chicago and lived there until his death.[5]

Jarman stayed with the Ensemble until 1993, when he left the group to focus on his spiritual practice, "a cleansing process" as he stated.[5] The move was not announced at first, leading fans to speculate about Jarman's health when he did not appear on stage for an AECO Thanksgiving weekend show at the Knitting Factory in 1994.[6] He did not have much to do with music until 1996 when, in January, he recorded two CDs, The Scott Fields Ensembles' 48 Motives and the concert, duo CD Connecting Spirits with Marilyn Crispell, which Fields produced. Later in the year, his friend and fellow AACM peer Leroy Jenkins asked him to join a trio with him and Myra Melford in Chicago, which would eventually be called Equal Interest.[6] Looking back on those three years without music, Jarman commented that "I didn't realize it, but it actually depressed me in many ways."[4] He was then commissioned to write a chamber orchestra piece, which led him to the realization of how to incorporate his Buddhist teachings into his music. Jarman returned to the AECO in January 2003.[7]

Along with the saxophone and clarinet, Jarman also played (and recorded on) nearly every member of the woodwind family, as well as a wide variety of percussion instruments.[2] Aside from his work with relatively traditional jazz line-ups, he also composed for larger orchestras and created multimedia pieces for musicians and dancers.


Jarman was most widely known for his musical accomplishments, but he was also involved in the practice of Zen Buddhism and aikido. He began his study of aikido in the early 1970s in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. He began studying Zen Buddhism in 1990 and visited various monasteries in Eastern Asia, including Higashi Honganji Honzon in Kyoto, Japan. A few years later, he opened his own aikido dojo/zendo, Jikishinkan ("direct mind training hall"),[5] in Brooklyn, New York.[6] He was latterly a Jodo Shinshu priest, and held a rank of godan (fifth degree black belt) in aikido.

Joseph Jarman died of respiratory failure at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey on January 9, 2019,[8] as announced by the New York chapter of the AACM on their website. He was 81.[9]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

With the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Title Year Label
Numbers 1 & 2 – Lester Bowie 1967 Nessa
Early Combinations - Art Ensemble 1967 Nessa
A Jackson in Your House 1969 BYG Actuel
Tutankhamun 1969 Freedom
The Spiritual 1969 Freedom
People in Sorrow 1969 Nessa
Message to Our Folks 1969 BYG-Actuel
Reese and the Smooth Ones 1969 BYG-Actuel
Eda Wobu 1969 JMY
Certain Blacks 1970 America
Go Home 1970 Galloway
Chi-Congo 1970 Paula
Les Stances a Sophie 1970 Nessa
Live in Paris 1970 Freedom
Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass 1970 America
Phase One 1971 America
Live at Mandell Hall 1972 Delmark
Bap-Tizum 1972 Atlantic
Fanfare for the Warriors 1973 Atlantic
Kabalaba 1974 AECO
Nice Guys 1978 ECM
Live in Berlin 1979 West Wind
Full Force 1980 ECM
Urban Bushmen 1980 ECM
Among the People 1980 Praxis
The Complete Live in Japan 1984 DIW
The Third Decade 1984 ECM
Naked 1986 DIW
Ancient to the Future 1987 DIW
The Alternate Express 1989 DIW
Art Ensemble of Soweto 1990 DIW
America - South Africa 1990 DIW
Thelonious Sphere Monk with Cecil Taylor 1990 DIW
Dreaming of the Masters Suite 1990 DIW
Live at the 6th Tokyo Music Joy 1991 DIW
Fundamental Destiny with Don Pullen 1991 AECO
Salutes the Chicago Blues Tradition 1993 AECO
Reunion 2003 Around Jazz/Il Manifesto
The Meeting 2003 Pi
Sirius Calling 2004 Pi
Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City 2006 Pi

As sideman[edit]

With Anthony Braxton

With Jerome Cooper

With Alan Silva


  1. ^ Chinen, Nate. "Joseph Jarman, 81, Dies; Mainstay of the Art Ensemble of Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 225. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  3. ^ a b Chris Kelsey. "Joseph Jarman biography at Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Fred Jung. "A Fireside Chat with Joseph Jarman". Jazz Weekly. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d Jason Gross (October 1998). "Joseph Jarman". Perfect Sound Forever. Archived from the original on March 20, 2006. Retrieved January 2, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Kurt Gottschalk. "Joseph Jarman Interview". All About Jazz. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  7. ^ "Joseph Jarman". Retrieved June 9, 2007.
  8. ^ Chinen, Nate (January 11, 2019). "Joseph Jarman, 81, Dies; Mainstay of the Art Ensemble of Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  9. ^ Jazz Musician and Buddhist Priest Joseph Jarman Dead at 81: Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-01-11.

External links[edit]