As a youngster I would have defended a record like this against my derisive “US-rock-and-not-much-more” friends. Yes, people: Mr. Ricci was heavily into genuine hi-tech fusion – he’s not ashamed in admitting it. Hey, I still get excited when Return To Forever’s “Space Circus” appears in my shuffle play. So let’s list the four reasons behind my benign thumbs up to On A Mission: namely, the musicians involved. Beledo – a good guitarist, not on “extreme top” altitudes but able to involve on occasion, with decent taste in the choices of the notes and proper homework made. Keyboardist Adam Holzman, who I listened to quite often as a (rare) lover of Miles Davis’ so-called “commercial” period (get this, folks: Decoy is a masterpiece; the keyboards in there are handled by Robert Irving III, though). Lincoln Goines: excellent bassist, not a wasted move, solid presence. And – especially – Kim Plainfield, a long-time hero for this wannabe drummer: only for what he does in Bill Connors’ Double Up, the man belongs to my personal pantheon.
Apart from Marcus Miller’s “Portia” (originally featured on Miles’ Tutu), the rest of the material was composed by Beledo. For me, nowadays, this type of music coincides with out-and-out easy listening; but sure as death and taxes it is perfect for its scope, carving some lightweight fun in the grey skies of daily humdrum. To use an effective commonplace, it’s the kind of album that works better cranked from a car stereo on a highway. The scores, as predictable as they might be (this happens with every codified genre, jazz-rock being probably THE area where norms and canons have been applied more than anywhere else) are lively enough to instigate a rhythmical cranial motion and, in this writer’s case, the illusion of replicating Plainfield’s bass drum accents with accuracy (ha!). I have no particular complaints; the musicianship is obviously of high calibre, nothing indecorous to declare. Getting to revisit the ancient tastes of adolescence is not bad, sometimes.