Jim Ryan was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and began listening to bebop at age 15. In 1958 after obtaining a degree in philosophy from the Universisty of Minnesota, Jim was drafted into the army and sent to Europe. After serving for 21 months, Jim found himself attending the Sorbonne in Paris France. After a short time he discovered he was infected with the writing bug and became involved with the beat poet community that was blossoming in France and throughout the world, rubbing elbows with such poets as Boroughs, and Ginsberg. Nearing his mid-30's it became more difficult to make a living writing and he found many of his former-writing friends were becoming involved in painting and other artistic endeavors. In 1968 Jim was given a wooden flute and shortly thereafter acquired a c-melody sax. At the same time many of the American new music musicians, Sonny Murray, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, and the AACM were given funding by the US Government and settled in Europe including France. Jim was in the right place at the right time and found himself jamming and performing with these rebels of creative music. As the migration of cutting edge American artists continued more straight ahead artists like Johnny Griffith and Steve Lacy began to arrive to take advantage of the European scene. In the early 70's Jim participated in a yearlong workshop organized and led by Steve Lacy while continuing to develop his writing. In 1975 Jim formed the Free Music Formation, a group which performed in Paris and other European cities.
In 1975 he returned to the United States in search of a fresh start and settled in Washington, D.C. where he formed the Art Performance Group performing throughout the area. In 1987 he moved California and lived in Marin County until 1993 when he moved to Oakland and became part of the San Francisco Bay Area improv and jazz scene. After a long hiatus, in 1997, he launched one of his current groups Forward Energy featuring stellar artists like trumpet player Eddie Gale and drummer Donald Robinson. Jim also performed with Marco Eneidi's "American Jungle Orchestra," and Eddie Gale's "Orchestra for World Peace." In 1998 he became the editor and publisher of Outside, an underground art and music zine in Oakland, which featured such artists as Positive Knowledge, Marco Emeidi, as well as many artists of Bay Area improv scene. For two years beginning in 1999 Jim was the booker for the Luggage Store Gallery Series in San Francisco. At that same time he was also booking for the Starry Plow new music series in Berkeley, 2310 Telegraph Gallery in Oakland, and he currently curates shows occasionally at 21Grand Gallery in Oakland. In the spring of 2000, he founded the Electro/Acoustic Sextet of Oakland, which was a melding of free jazz and avant academic styles. The group performed in Oakland and at the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival in May 2000. In the spring of 2000 he performed in the 401 Festival at Theater Artaud in composer Matthew Burtner's piece for nine tenor saxophones, "Portals of Distortion." You can hear this pivotal Bay Area saxophonist presently with Forward Energy and the Jordan Glenn's Mindless Thing.