James Earl Clay (b. Sept. 8, 1935, Dallas, Texas – d. there, Jan. 1, 1994) was an American hard bop jazz tenor saxophonist and flutist. While in school Clay played alto saxophone, became a professional musician, and played with local bands in Dallas, including with Booker Ervin. Later, he went to California, there he played in 1957 in Red Mitchell‘s quartet and on recordings with Lawrence Marable. at the end of 1957 he returned to his hometown of Dallas, and served in the Army in 1959.
After a few decades of obscurity, Clay enjoyed a modestly successful career revival in the late 1980s and early 1990s.