When I came to this page to put in my thoughts I discovered that several others have had the same experience of this disk as I. A good sign. At the risk of repetition and even saying the same thing over, I'll share my thoughts anyhow.
This is, at first listen, a strange outing for a guy who is unquestionably one of the premier jazz drummers of his generation. As so many others, I was disappointed at first hearing (see the Jazz Times review on this page for a typical response). But there was substance here to tell me to wait and come back. Which I did after several years.
If Jack DeJohnette puts out a solo CD at the height of his career, (yes, there are side men, and they share credit for some tunes, but make no mistake, this is a Jack De'J CD from the firt bar) the music will say something more personal than , for example the shared-credit and rather poppish Parallel Realities or his work with Keith Jarrett's standards group from around this time.
This music is dark, densely textured percussion with distant, heat-lightening flashes in strange keys. If you've heard it and you think of this disk, I'll bet the first thing you think of is the sound of his cymbals. Yes? When have you heard anything like it? And probably something of the strange, off-kilter piano that breaks through. (I was not surprised to see another review wish for Paul Bley on this recording. This is very much in his arena, but I am glad he is not here. Bley is a presence to be accounted for and there is not much room for another god in this universe. Cain and Harris are restrained, almost timid as they step into DeJohnette's dark, murky waters. In fact, Cain's little patches of light in the upper register set against Jack's deep background have haunted me for years.
The tune "Jack in" is an interesting point on the CD. It is a tune he has recorded before and gives you a point of reference for what he (and Don Alias, to be fair) is doing here: letting the percussion define the tune, give it a depth a group effort can't approach. Twist it, vary the time, let a few notes remind you of where you are.
The music is all Jack but I suspect much of the credit for the sound of this recording must go to engineer Tom Mark, who has engineered some very good recordings for ECM over the years. Getting the drums and cymbals as he has here is an underappreciated art in itself.
Actually, this is one of the few of the latter day ECM CDs where the cover art gives a strong hint of the music contained. The raked and scratched, black and white impasto where light and space gather to form familiar objects. I'd venture to say if you like the art, you'll like the music, or you will come to like it, as others have.
By the way, Jack has a tune called "Oneness" that appears on the Gateway CD Homecoming (trio with Holland and Abercrombie). That song does not appear here but is has some of the same spirit. It also features Jack on piano.