James Robert Belden (October 31, 1956 – May 20, 2015) was an American saxophonist, arranger, composer, bandleader and producer. He is noted for his Grammy Award winning jazz orchestral recording titled The Black Dahlia. He is also a past head of A & R for Blue Note Records.
Belden was born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in South Carolina. In his formative years, Belden studied saxophone with Lou Marini Sr., father of famed jazz saxophonist, Lou Marini (Buddy Rich Big Band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, best known as "Blue Lou" of the Blues Brothers Band). Belden attended the University of North Texas and was a member of the famed One O'Clock Lab Band. While at UNT Belden amassed a huge record collection which included every Blue Note album in existence. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of both the musical and the historical aspects of jazz, in addition to other forms of music such as opera, and contemporary classical music. This has been evident in his work reissuing the music of Miles Davis on Columbia, for which he received Grammy awards. A familiarity with details of recording dates, personnel, and specific takes have proven invaluable in preserving and documenting that period of jazz.
Belden's works as arranger and composer show an extremely wide ranging versatility, often being compared to the works of Gil Evans and Maria Schneider. In 2008 he arranged and produced Miles from India, a world fusion music record, based on the compositions of Miles Davis. In the record he assembled alumni of Davis and musicians of India. He continued in this vein with 2011's Miles Español – New Sketches of Spain.
In addition to his work as arranger, composer, conductor and A & R director, Belden has contributed numerous liner notes for noted recordings, such as "Lou's Blues" by Lou Marini and the Magic City Jazz Orchestra. Some of his liner notes have received Grammy Awards.