Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Joseph Jarman dead at 81

    The multi-instrumentalist and composer will be missed.

    Joseph Jarman performing with Art Ensemble of Chicago in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1984
    Joseph Jarman performing with Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1984. Image: Frans Schellekens / Redferns

    RIP, Joseph Jarman. The longtime member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago died last Wednesday in New Jersey. He was 81 years old.

    According to his former wife Thulani Davis, the multi-instrumentalist and composer died of cardiac arrest due to respiratory failure, the New York Times reported.

    Jarman was best known in the jazz world for his decades-long involvement in the avant garde group Art Ensemble of Chicago. “Part of the magic of the early AEC derived from the constantly changing colors and patterning of the ‘horn web’ woven by Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell as they moved between a multitude of reed instruments,” reads a tribute by ECM Records, which released an box set of the group’s collected works just last year.

    The Chicago native was ordained a Shinsu Buddhist priest in 1990, and left the Ensemble three years later to focus on his spiritual studies. He rejoined the group a decade later, but as ECM Records explains, “recurrent ill-health prevented him from resuming the life of the touring musician.”

    Listen to “Dreaming of the Master,” one of Jarman’s compositions for the Art Ensemble of Chicago: