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Tom Ranier releases "This Way"

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    Posted: 29 Jun 2020 at 8:12pm

Pianist, clarinetist, multi-woodwinds player, and composer TOM RANIER, one of Southern California's finest improvisers, is releasing THIS WAY, his first recording as a leader in 14 years.

It isn't as though his music hasn't been heard for the last decade. He is a highly sought-after studio musician, performing regularly at the Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. He has also recorded for artists such as Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, George Coleman, Lew Tabackin, Eddie Daniels, Lanny Morgan, Barbra Streisand, Michael Feinstein, Christina Aguilera, Joe Pass, Plácido Domingo, Barry Manilow, and Natalie Cole, among many others. He toured with comedian and actor Joey Bishop, who used music in his live act, and he accompanied Donna Summer in her early days.

But Ranier is first and foremost, a jazz musician at heart. Although he enjoys the challenge of playing different styles of music -- sometimes a different genre every day when he is in the studio -- he has never stopped performing jazz on recordings and live performances for other artists. He felt the time was right to record his own music again. "I think albums reflect the life experiences and musical growth of an artist at that particular time," says Ranier. "I've developed a broad palette because of all the different kinds of music I've been playing, from various pop styles to electronic music to, of course, jazz. I also studied classical music when I was young, and I've been very influenced by 19th century classical composers. When I'm composing, I'm not really aware of those influences, but I can certainly hear them in the finished product."

On THIS WAY, Ranier displays the remarkable range of his musical talents, playing the piano and synthesizer, as well as soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes. He is equally versatile on the Bb, bass, and contra-alto clarinets. His love of music and ability to adroitly play so many instruments are baked into his DNA. His father was a professional clarinetist and saxophonist, and his mother was a singer.

Ranier, who grew up in Fullerton, California, studied classical piano beginning at age 10, and took clarinet lessons from his father when he was 12. He studied composition at 16 with Jack Daugherty, a producer and trumpeter who is best known for producing the Carpenters. While still in high school, he played dances and club dates with his father. He earned a degree in Music Composition from Cal State Fullerton.

After graduating from college, Ranier supported himself playing clubs and casuals, as well as working at Disneyland as a musician, playing for various shows until 1985. He first established his reputation as a jazz pianist with vibes player Dave Pike, when he appeared on Pike's 1983 recording, Moonbird.

During this period, he recorded with Milt Jackson and Ray Brown and worked with a variety of jazz artists. Beginning in 1981, Ranier co-led a band with bassist John Heard and drummer Sherman Ferguson. They recorded an album in 1982. He also began playing sessions in the Hollywood studios as a keyboardist. 
Ranier worked on many television shows, including "Moonlighting," "Beauty and the Beast," "Star Trek: Enterprise," and "Family Guy," and on films, like "Forest Gump," "Ted," and "Frozen." He was a keyboardist and arranger for "Dancing with the Stars" from 2005 to 2013, and he has been a full-time member of the orchestra for "The Simpsons" since 2011.
Ranier recorded his first album, which featured Frank Rosolino, in 1975. His other albums include Night Music (1979) and, as a co-leader with sax player Glenn Cashman, Blue in Green (2005) and Bright Idea (2006).

Ranier's music is so compelling because he is a storyteller with a strong visual sense. "You don't need words to convey ideas or emotions. Like the visual arts, music tells stories through images. My music and my photography very much inform each other." Indeed, Ranier is also an accomplished photographer, another talent he shared with his father, who found work as both a professional photographer and musician. Ranier will be publishing two books of his photography in 2020 and is working on an online project that combines both art forms.
For THIS WAY, Ranier brought on board some of the finest musicians in Southern California, all of whom are first-call studio musicians with extensive recording experience. The band includes TREY HENRY (Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones) on bass, RALPH HUMPHREY (Don Ellis, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau) on drums, and THOM ROTELLA (Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra, Stanley Turrentine) on guitar.

Of the eight tracks on THIS WAY, six are Ranier's own compositions, including "Blue Aria," which is written in the key of G# minor and features a surging rhythm with a flowing melodic line over it. "Circle" also has a very melodic line with an 18th century classical harmonic scheme. Ranier is a huge fan of the Brecker Brothers, whose music was the inspiration for "This Way." Kloose is a nickname that was given to drummer Humphrey while working with Ranier on "Dancing with the Stars." "Yes Kloose" is written in the unusual time of 7/4. Ranier says, "I think Ralph is maybe one of the absolute masters in the whole world at playing odd time signatures."

"Secret Heart," co-written by Randy Brecker and Eliane Elias, is a tribute to Michael Brecker, who recorded a soprano solo on the Brecker Brothers' recording of the tune. Ranier transcribed the solo and reharmonized it for soprano sax, three clarinets, and bass clarinet. "Trio Vision," another tune by Ranier, is an acoustic jazz trio composition featuring Henry's bass solo. "Rhapsody" was orchestrated by Bruce Healey, who was responsible for every musical production by The Disneyland Entertainment Division since 1986. Ranier closes the album with "Desafinado," the well-known Antonio Carlos Jobim tune, which is performed in 7/4 and features a soli for four clarinets and a bass clarinet.

THIS WAY has been a long time coming. Ranier says, "Every recording is a snapshot in time of where the artist is right at that moment. This album is the culmination of all my experiences and musical influences over the last 15 or so years." The music on THIS WAY, which is performed by master musicians, is rich and complex, yet eminently accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.

THIS WAY was released on June 26, 2020 and is available in stores and online everywhere.

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