One of the most adventurous arrangers of the 1990s and 2000s, Bob Belden took the music of Puccini, Prince, and (with the most success) Sting, and turned it into jazz. After graduating from the University of North Texas in 1978, he was with Woody Herman's Orchestra for 18 months, worked with Donald Byrd off and on during 1981-1985, played with the Mel Lewis Orchestra, and produced a couple of Red Rodney records.
In 1983, Belden settled in New York as a writer for studio sessions. Influenced by Gil Evans, Belden debuted on Sunnyside with Treasure Island, before working on transforming non-jazz material into jazz. Belden also assisted with Columbia Records' Miles Davis reissue program.
He played in a duet with trumpeter Tim Hagans, issuing a live album on Blue Note in 2000 entitled Re-Animation Live! The 2001 release Black Dahlia showcased a 12-part orchestra paying tribute to the late Elizabeth Short, a celebrated Hollywood actress who was killed in 1947.