While attending high school in Chicago in the early 50s, Jarman took up the drums under the teaching of the famous music teacher Walter Dvett. He then switched to saxophone and clarinet while in the Army. After his discharge in 1958, he returned to Chicago. At that time he joined pianist Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band, alongside his future Art Ensemble fellow compatriots Malachi Favors and Mitchell. Jarman played in a hard bop six tent with Mitchell and in 1965, he became one of the first members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
In 1967, Jarman was one of the first saxophonists perform solo, a tactic embraced by other members of the AACM notably Anthony Braxton. Jarman let his own group from 1966 to 68, which included bassist Charles Clark, drummer Thurman Barker, and pianist Christopher Gaddy. Separate editions of that band recorded a pair of albums for Delmark: Song forů. and As if it were the Seasons. In 1967, Lester Bowie recorded numbers one and 2 for Nessa: one of the four musicians who would become the Art Ensemble ( Bowie, Mitchell, Favors and Jarman) recorded together for the first time. In 1969, that band would become Jarman's primary creative outlet. By then the deaths of Gaddy and Clark had compelled Jarman to disband his own group. He would continue with the art ensemble until 1993. In that time he also recorded under his own name, for the Black Saint and India Navigation labels. Upon leaving the Art Ensemble, Jarman virtually retired for music. He then devoted his time to completely spiritual matters. As the 90s progressed however, he did continue to perform and record often is a guest with such musicians as Marilyn Crispell, guitarist/composer Scott Fields, bassist Reggie workman, and drummer Lou Grassi.