Tom Ranier was born in Chicago on July 13, 1949, his family later moved to Garden Grove, California. He was first musically inspired by clarinetist Benny Goodman at age six or seven and was taken by Charlie Parker, One of the first records that I really liked was Charlie Parker with Strings, the way he soared over the orchestra..." Ranier took up piano at age ten studying the classical repertiore and added clarinet at 12. Ranier says he didnt pursue a concert piano career because, After hearing Benny, I always wanted to play jazz.
While a student at Santiago High School, Ranier worked with his father (Lou Ranier) on gigs and studied arranging with the noted writer Jack Daugherty. After high school Ranier studied music at California State University, Fullerton where he received a B.A. in Music Composition in 1972; he also studied with Kalman Bloch on clarinet and Lloyd Rogers in composition. He studied piano with Earle Voorhies, Craig Rees, and John Crown. Further studies were completed at USC and Cal-Arts.
Ranier established a reputation primarily on piano as a jazz performer with vibist Dave Pike, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, and co-led a band with drummer Sherman Ferguson and bassist John Heard. Under his own name he first recorded in 1976 for Warner Bros. and in 1980 for the First American label and recently he has recorded for Concord Records. He has gone onto work with the Terry Gibbs-Buddy DeFranco Sextet, George Coleman, Lew Tabackin, Eddie Daniels, Lanny Morgan and long list of other jazz musicians. Live jazz performance and the art of improvising is important to Ranier, "...it's a combination of both thinking and feeling...(the) music is complex enough that there is a lot of thought going on...you're trying to project something, listening from deep within you."
The list of studio work for television, movies, and entertainment is quite extensive to include "The Young and the Restless" (1986), "Noises Off" (1992), "Matlock", "Diagnosis: Murder", "Trial and Error", "Letters from a Killer", "Sideways" (2004), most recently he is seen and heard on the T.V. show Dancing with the Stars. Ranier has done extensive work as both a musician and orchestrator for Disney, the Academy Awards, and CBS. Ranier takes great pride in and enjoys doing studio work, "...it's a craft that both keeps you fresh and makes you a better musician...and because you work on different projects with different composers, it broadens your scope."
Though Ranier is more widely known as a pianist and keyboard/synth specialist in live and studio music he is very adept as a musician and jazz improvisor on the clarinet and saxophones. He has recorded on numerous albums and studio sessions as a woodwind doubler.
Tom Ranier is a strong advocate of music education and has been teaching at the collegiate level since the mid 1970's. He has taught jazz composition and arranging at Fullerton College and helped to contribute writing for several highly successful recordings the school produced. Most recently he has been teaching in the jazz program headed up by guitarist Kenny Burrell at University of California, Los Angeles. He is also an educational author for Alfred Publishing and has written Piano in the Rhythm Section.