Curtis A. Jones would be one of Chicago house music's most important figures even if all he'd done was start a couple of record labels. Twin pillars of the city's mid-'90s second major house wave, Cajual and Relief were matched oppositesthe former oriented toward club DJs for whom classicist, soul- and gospel-rooted house held sway, the latter focusing more on tougher, "trackier" music that played to younger rave crowds.
Between them, Cajual and Relief issued 12-inches and the occasional album by a Who's Who of the era's Chi-town luminaries: Spencer Kincy, DJ Sneak, Glenn Underground, Paul Johnson, Boo Williams, Roy Davis Jr., Mark Grant, Gene Farris, Johnny Fiasco, and Jones's longtime friend Karen Gordon, née vocalist Dajaé.
Accordingly, Jones also recorded for both imprints, under different namesfor Cajual as Cajmere (both names take off from Jones's initials), and for Relief as Green Velvet, a nickname given by an ex's father-in-law who liked to mock Jones's first alias. Two Cajmere tracks from 1992 kicked Cajual into gear: "Brighter Days," a house anthem sung by Dajaé, and the infectiously raw "The Percolator." But Green Velvet was the wilder, more memorable persona; it was under that pseudonym that Jones made his greatest record, "Flash" (1995), which mocked the excesses of the rave scene by treating it like a tour guide from (and through) hell. Jones had a brief moment in the major-label sphere when short-lived Warner Bros. dance subsidiary F-111 issued a self-titled Green Velvet collection in 2000.
This year is Cajual Records' 20th anniversary, and the label has been more active in recent years than it has in a while. SOTC spoke with the sweet-tempered Jones in March. More »