Emerging from the town of Bari in the southern Italian region of Apulia, the Dolmen Orchestra was the second major creative/experimental jazz orchestra to hit the Italian scene during the '90s, following the Italian Instabile Orchestra. The Dolmen Orchestra was formed in 1995 and conducted by Nicola Pisani (who also doubled on saxophone), with a partial membership list including trumpeters Marco Sannini and Alfredo Sette, trombonists Franco Angiulo and Giuseppe Savino, saxophonists Vittorio Gallo and Felice Mezzina, and percussionists Antonio Dambrosio and Aldo Bagnoni (the entire group is typically 15-20 pieces). After a few years of honing their sound and playing Italian festivals, the orchestra signed with the well-respected British label Leo. Their first recorded project was 2000's Sequenze Armoniche (Some Gregorian Reflections), which built jazz variations off of Gregorian chant melodies, featured guests included vocalist Linda Bsiri, tuba player Michel Godard, and baritone/soprano saxophonist John Surman. The follow-up, 2001's Minotrauma, was equally ambitious, adapting the Greek legend of the Minotaur (especially as reinterpreted by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt) to an extended jazz suite. It featured vocalist Cristina Zavalloni, as well as French trombonist Yves Robert in the sonic role of the Minotaur.
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