Pedro Iturralde is considered one of the major figures of Spanish jazz. He is also renowned as a composer and performer of classical repertoire for saxophone.
Pedro Iturralde was born in Falces (Navarra) in 1929. He learned music with his father and at the age of 9 he started playing the saxophone and clarinet in the Falces municipal band. Later he studied saxophone, clarinet, piano, violin, guitar and harmony at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid, where he later taught from 1978 until his retirement in 1994.
At the age of 18, he made his first tour abroad as a jazz musician and on his return to Spain, he obtained a higher degree in saxophone. At the age of 20 he composed his most famous piece: La pequeña Czarda, for saxophone and piano.
In the early 1960s, he founded the Pedro Iturralde Quartet and played regularly at the Whisky Jazz Club where he had the opportunity to play with Don Byas, Lee Konitz and Gerry Mulligan. He also played with Tete Montoliu and in 1966 joined the All Star Big Band of the European Broadcasting Union.
Iturralde was the first to introduce the flamenco guitar into jazz and thus contributed to the birth of what would be called "flamenco jazz". He recorded two albums entitled Jazz Flamenco vol.1 and 2.
As a classical saxophonist, he frequently performed with the National Orchestra of Spain and the Symphony Orchestra of the Spanish Radio and Television. He also composed music for films, including El viaje a ninguna parte (Journey to Nowhere, 1986) by Fernando Fernán Gómez.
Pedro Iturralde passed away in 2020. He leaves behind beautiful pieces that will remain in the repertoire.
Photo credit: Rai Fernandes