Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1937, Joseph Jarman grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He studied drums
with Capt. Walter Dyatt at DuSable High School, and later switched to saxophone and clarinet while in the armed forces. From
1955-1958, Jarman was one of the few African Americans to serve with the U. S. Army 11th Airborne Division Pathfinders.
professional music career began soon after he left the army in 1958. Returning to Chicago, he joined the Experimental Band
organized by composer and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, in the early 1960s, along with Malachi Favors and Roscoe Mitchell,
two of his later collaborators in the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC). He also played in a sextet with Mitchell at the time.
He became a co-founder of the famed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1965, and also distinguished
himself as one of the first saxophonists to perform solo. From 1966-68, he led his own group, which included bass player Charles
Clark, drummer Thurman Barker, and pianist
Christopher Gaddy, among others. The original four members of the Art
Ensemble of Chicago--Jarman, Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors-- recorded together for the first time in 1969.
Since that time, Jarman has performed, toured and recorded all over the world. Best known as a saxophonist, Jarman plays all
the woodwinds and many percussive instruments, including vibes, marimba, ballaphone and an array of bells, gongs, and "little
instruments." Jarman has also performed extensively as a soloist with small and large bands. He performed with the Art Ensemble
of Chicago from 1969-1993 and returned to the AEC in 2003.
In 1990, Jarman was ordained a Buddhist priest and
took the name Shaku as his first name. That year, he founded, along with his wife Thulani Davis, the Brooklyn Buddhist Association.
In 1993, he left the AEC for a ten-year period to devote himself to Buddhist practice and build an aikido dojo, where the
5th-Dan aikido practictioner served as head sensei. During the next ten years he oversaw the training of over 100 martial
artists. He also recorded and performed with Reggie Workman, Myra Melford, Leroy Jenkins, Marilyn Crispell and others. With
Melford and Jenkins he formed Equal Interest and with musicians from his dojo and zen groups he formed the Dojo Band and the
Lifetime Visions Orchestra, for which he wrote a number of compositions now on CD. During this period Jarman's compositional
work began to evolve into new areas and become what is best be described as a new sacred music, beginning with the 1996 "Pachinko
Dream Track 10," including his collaborations with Leroy Jenkins on "Out of the Mist," and including "Lifetime Visions for
the Magnificent Human."
In the early 2000s, Jarman withdrew from teaching Aikido as he successfully battled
several bouts of cancer. Health issues intermittently kept him off the road as well. He makes his home in Montclair, New Jersey.
what's to say
where we are
in a maze
it's warm and quiet
in the rain
--from "Black Case, Volumes 1 &
2, Return from Exile," 1977