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Born in The Hague, Laanen's father Theo was also a noted trombonist. After training in the Royal Conservatory, he worked in the 1960s and early 1970s as a freelance trombonist in Germany and his home country.
In 1972 he founded the Hague Trombone Quartet with Arthur Moore and the brothers Bart and Erik van Lier. In 1980 he played with the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He also runs a web site "Trombone Page of the world".
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