Trombonist Toni Belenguer died on Sunday 13 September at the age of 42. The cause of his death is still unexplained. He was one of the top jazz trombonists in Spain, and an important and popular figure in the regional scene in and around Valencia. Belenguer studied Jazz and Harmony at the Joaquín Rodrigo Conservatory in Valencia. In 2003, he won first prize for best soloist in the Salamanca National Competition and went on to form his own group, the Toni Belenguer Quintet, as well as playing in groups led by Perico Sambeat. He became a professor for the Joaquín Rodrigo Conservatory and released his debut album “Alter-Ego” with Sedajazz Records in 2018. Belenguer also played with the Sedajazz Big Band; below is a tribute from fellow Sedajazz musician, Marta Ramón:
From here to eternity: A tribute to Toni Belenguer by Marta Ramón
He lived in music, his only possible world. Toni Belenguer was a divine rebel in his whole being, an eccentric with authenticity. Unanimously, a genius. Of creation, education, invention. Family, friends, colleagues, students and the public have been inhabited by him, by that trombone that had better diction than many people when they speak. Without a doubt, he was “The Trombonist” of the Spanish jazz scene, the most genuinely European jazzero.
Toni always went above and beyond to be a musician of musicians, an inspiration for any instrumentalist, because what interested him was the language, the decisive moment of provocation. You could see him on stages of any size, which is why you could find him at ground level at Valencia’s jam sessions.
“What stands out the most is his contagious love for music, he was always crazy about playing,” says saxophonist Perico Sambeat, who has relied on Belenguer for his most important projects since he stood out as a “promising young talent” in the 90s.
From those early days, Toni formed part of hundreds of concerts, seminars, combos, rehearsals and dozens of formations, but undoubtedly his chair in Sedajazz’s emblematic Big Band will most feel his absence. Francisco Blanco “Latino”, Sedajazz’s Musical Director, describes Belenguer as a “unique, once-in-a-lifetime musician. He played the trombone with a sensitivity and, at the same time, a sophistication that makes him one of the best jazz trombonists in the history of the world”.
Toni knew how to play with the subtlety of humour, both verbally and non-verbally. He knew exactly how to manipulate the absurd and how to turn divergence into something natural. He would say, as well as do, extravagant things. Like walking to concerts with his trombone on his shoulder and his musician’s shoes, no matter if the gig was more than ten kilometres away.
Toni’s life has been one of music, openness and conceptualisation. “As well as being brilliant musically, he had strength and the capacity for work,” stresses Ramón Cardo, who counted on Belenguer to bring to life the speciality of jazz at the Joaquín Rodrigo Conservatory. Toni’s ability to unsettle you by transgressing conventional limits, made you question whether his surrealism was indeed a possible reality. From now on, Toni continues to vibrate in the instruments of others, in the streets of Cabanyal and in all of us who were lucky enough to see first-hand the legendary Belenguer.
Translated from the Spanish by Rosa Sawer