The Free Project is a departure from this very accomplished pianist/educator’s 2004 straight-ahead offering, "Mo City Jungle," although there is still a very strong, white-hot, straight-ahead jazz presence. Actually, there are quite a few vivid elements that are interwoven into this project, and true justice just can’t be done to it via categorization. Along with classic jazz, there's rap and a sprinkling of pop/R&B. The deliberate and rather intense delivery of rap may be seen by some as bolstering the all-encompassing energy here; others may feel it obstructs a clear view into that energy and creativity. How you view it depends upon how you initially approach the album. An open mind helps. Personally, I found this hybrid interesting and innovative.
Keith Javors shows here that he truly is "a bandleader intent on collective envelope-pushing," as described by Jazz Times. Yes, you just may hear an example of that on the rap cuts and with the unique and soulful twist on the Bee Gees’ "How Deep Is Your Love." Javors' cover of this tune is complete with very competent vocals by Curtis Isom (his impressive falsetto here is also a great addition) and Javors’ in-charge piano. It takes a musician’s true artistic love and commitment to the art to really peer through his or her music to find this type of end.
Along with "How Deep Is Your Love," vocalist Isom and saxophonist Dane Bays do a sterling job on the short but deep "A Question of When." It’s an emotional, reflective piece that has a bead drawn on your heart. "Bull’s Eye!" might be an appropriate description of the accuracy of its aim. "I Need You Now" is another serene tune highlighting Javors’ prowess on the ivories. Other tunes here provide equally as much depth and enjoyment.Suffice it to say that The Free Project delivers and delivers well. Take from the rap segments what you will, but Javors proves here that he definitely deserves listeners tuning in to what he offers overall: A brilliant, structured, and well-conceived album.