Although he's admittedly been influenced by local legends, singer/pianist Bill Laursen is determined to step out of the sizable shadow of the city's sound, and he's somewhat frustrated that other area artists aren't doing the same. "Quit reproducing and start producing," he urges in the liner notes to The Right Time, the first release of his nearly 25-year career. Laursen does deliver a few shuffling renditions of standards ("Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Flip, Flop, and Fly") as well as a few bouncy jazz tunes of his own ("It's a Secret" and the swinging hometown tribute "Kansas City's Got Heart"), but he also delves into singer/songwriter territory with the Randy Newman-style "I Love You So" and the folksy call for unity "Stand Together." Laursen enlisted more than a dozen talented local musicians for this album, with Sarah Tannehill's breathtaking soprano vocals on "Ancestral Voices" and Gerald Spaits' rumbling bass among the most compelling contributions. Lyrically, Laursen is unfailingly optimistic, whether pledging his undying devotion on "I Will Be Here" or noting that "you'll be happy every single day" in Kansas City, where you can breathe "fresh healthy air." However, given the strength of this album, Laursen has ample reason to smile. His only misstep is a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," which drowns the melody in overdone dual vocal interaction, making Rod Stewart's version of the tune seem passable -- much as Christina Aguilera's recent live mauling of Free's "All Right Now" redeemed Stewart's rendition. Nonetheless, Laursen deserves plenty of credit, both for pushing the envelope as a jazz artist and for putting out work that exudes such positivity.