Joseph Jarman 14/09/37 – 9/01/19


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The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante Micheaux at last month’s stellar performance by Elaine Mitchener and Jason Yarde at Cafe OTO in London was as poignant as it was prescient. A few days later Joseph Jarman, the author of that poem that evoked profound urban alienation and the "hell of where we are", passed away in New Jersey at the age of 81. As he was about to meet his death the coming to life of his words on the other side of the Atlantic symbolised his ability to affect audiences beyond his homeland and lifetime.

Jarman actually read the piece himself on his 1967 solo debut, Song For, but he was really known as a highly-gifted multi-reed player who was proficient on numerous instruments that included the bassoon and recorder, as well as alto and soprano saxophones. Like his peers Anthon Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, he was wholly dedicated to the principle of fully exploring sound to induce new sensations amid daring, involving narratives that drew on a wide range of subjects.

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jarman moved to Chicago as a child in the 1940s, played drums in high school, then saxophone in the army. One of the earliest members of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Music (AACM) Jarman, who also studied drama, joined the Art Ensemble Of Chicago (AEC), and was largely responsible for bringing many striking elements of theatre into the group’s aesthetic. He left AEC in the early 1990s, and became more involved in spiritual practise, eventually becoming a Buddhist priest. Jarman’s excellent work, both as a collaborator and bandleader, have earned him a rightful place in the pantheon of artists whose great strength of imagination boldly collapsed the boundaries between sound, text, movement and ritual.

Kevin Le Gendre