Dennis Armstead

During the mid-1970’s, there were not many Black production companies handling Jazz in New York. Dennis Armstead started up Yellow Go-Rilla in 4 April 1975 for this purpose, helped by Sid Bernstein and Ron Delsener. The first function to be co-ordinated was in June 1975 at the Town Hall, New York City, with Ray Barretto and Roy Ayers. The company went on to work with Alan Douglas of Douglas Records, giving us The Last Poets – the first radical rap group.

At that time, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles laid down the tracks to help launch this group. Hugh Masekela was thus attracted to the management and production skills of Yellow Go-Rilla, followed by Miriam Makeba and Roy Ayers. The company went on to become special events co-ordinator for Black Music at CBS Records, now Sony.

The company organised events for this department under the helm of the late LeBaron Taylor such as a fundraising tribute to Louis Armstrong, taking place at the Beacon Theater in New York, April 1976, headlined by Lou Rawls, Freddie Hubbard, the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Orchestra, featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater and Robin Kenyatta.

Introduction to the Jazz Department at CBS, run by Dr George Butler, opened up many doors for special events with new artists such as Makoto Ozone (Japanese pianist) and a tribute to Alberta Hunter. These took place in exotic places across Manhattan, such as the top of the World’s Trade Center (Windows of the World) and the Atrium at the Seagrams building.

The company focused its interests in African music and from the late ’70s worked intensively with Miriam Makeba, touring Africa and taking African American artists such as Roy Ayers through tours of Nigeria with Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

In 1984 Yellow Go-Rilla, under the helm of Dennis Armstead, relocated to the UK. For the second time around, YGP took on the career of Hugh Masekela. The Paul Simon Graceland’s tour in 1987 was a result of that reunion. Following this successful project, Dennis Armstead was asked by Dick Scott, Manager of New Kids on the Block, to represent the band in Europe. This culminated in a worldwide tour and the setting up of a fan club in 1990.

The 90’s was devoted strictly to Jazz and the representation of US Jazz artists in Europe, concentrating on live festival work. Lonnie Liston Smith, Norman Connors, Michael Henderson, Robin Kenyatta, Sunny Murray, Blossom Dearie, Freddie Hubbard, Ronnie Laws were just some of the artists to work in Europe with YGP and 1993 saw the re-building of the Jazz Crusaders (formerly the Crusaders).

Towards the end of the 90’s and at the beginning of the new millennium, more time has been spent concentrating on personal management, including Yellow Go-Rilla’s first European Jazz musician’s Tony Remy, of the Tony Remy Group and Warner Jazz Recording Artist Largo featuring Gast Waltzing. However, as the demand for US artists in Europe does not diminish, Jazz FM asked us to put together one of their autumn spectaculars, which culminated in a ‘Philly City of Brotherly Love 04’ Tour. The artistry involved was Jean Carne, Billy Paul, Dexter Wansel and Bunny Sigler. The musical director for this tour was the late Nathan Heathman. A follow up is promised with ‘The Philadelphia Story’ featuring Shirley Jones (formerly of the Jones Girls) in addition to the original line-up.

More recently, Sandra St. Victor (Family Stand and Roy Ayers) approached us with her project entitled The Daughters of Soul. After the death of Nina Simone, I had spoken to her daughter Lisa on the day of Nina’s funeral. She had mentioned she was performing with a group and the Daughters of Soul are made up of three superstar’s offspring. We’ve already mentioned Nina Simone and Lisa Simone Kelly performs under the name Simone. Others in the group are Donny Hathaway’s daughter Lalah and Chaka Khan’s daughter, Indira. Rounding off this ensemble of ladies are Nona Hendrxy formerly of LaBelle and Joyce Kennedy (Mother’s Finest). We plan tours in Europe and the Far East. Watch this space…

Going back to our roots (African music) we are developing a Congolese artist who used to perform with Papa Wemba – his name is Gordon Masiala.

Bobby Lyle has been approached by Yellow Go-Rilla to represent his all star trio and to introduce them to Europe.

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