Composer, woodwind soloist, poet, and spokesman for "great black music," Joseph Jarman is an artist of enormous range and virtuosity. A co-founder of Chicago's AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) in 1965, and a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago since 1969, Jarman has performed, toured, and recorded in all parts of the Western world as well as in Japan and Eastern Europe. Best known as a saxophonist, Jarman plays all the woodwinds and many percussion instruments, including vibes, marimba, bellaphone, and an array of bells, gongs, and "little instruments."
In addition to more than 50 albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Jarman's extensive discography includes Poem Song, Inheritance, the 1994 Delmark release Alone Together featuring Anthony Braxton and Calypso's Smile on AECO Records, with Famoudou Don Moye's Magic Triangle. Jarman's early performances with the Art Ensemble of Chicago have recently been compiled on The Art Ensemble 1967-68, a five-disc box set released by Nessa Records.
Jarman has received numerous grants and honors from the National Endowment and the New York Foundation for the Arts; numerous first place awards in Down Beat's Critics' Poll as a member of the Art Ensemble and as a saxophonist; the Oscar du Meilleur Disque given by the Academie du Jazz in France; the flute award in Jazz Forum; and the Gold Medal for Individual Performance from Dani Dzeza U Novom Sadu in Yugoslavia.
"Motivated by muses that originate in the gut and resolve in the head —or vice versa," (San Francisco Chronicle) Jarman writes music that is both challenging and spiritual. "Gentle, transparent music," which evokes "the elegiac side of Satie, the open tones of Celtic folk music, the wryness of Milhaud and the tinkling of Steve Reich" (The New York Times) —his work has also been praised for its powerful intensity. The Chicago Sun-Times hailed Jarman's songs as "harmonious crowd-pleasers —a calypso-style number with a new music pulse that Philip Glass might enjoy, and an infectious Dixieland-lifted march that has the audience on its feet."
Jarman is also renowned for his contribution to music/theater —a medium combining music with dance, poetry, and visuals to create a unique and cohesive artistic experience. Some of Jarman's works in this genre include Homage to the New Republic, a large bicentennial piece wholly funded by the NEA; Stepping - Other Shores by Thulani Davis, performed at The Kitchen in New York and at New Music America in Washington DC; The Art of War by Jessica Hagedorn and choreographer Blondel Cummings, premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in New York; and Fire in the Mirror —a musical score for Anna Deveare Smith's film.
Jarman's poetry, which he often integrates into his musical performances, has been published in Black Scholar, Arsenal, and Jazz Magazine (France). His work has been compiled in Black Case, Volumes 1 & 2, Return from Exile. An eloquent herald of "great black music", its history and its art, Jarman is also a Buddhist priest and a Sensei (instructor) in the martial art of Aikido.