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In the world of smooth jazz, Earl Klugh is a king.

I refer to “smooth jazz” in the nonpejorative sense, it should be noted – Klugh is not Kenny G, after all, but is instead a virtuosic guitarist with a hard-earned and finely detailed approach to finger-style nylon string guitar playing. That he favors melodies that even a listener not trained in the harmonic complexities of jazz might find appealing is not something that should be held against the man. Recall, for a clue to the depth of the Klugh’s talent, that he was playing guitar for jazz legend Yusef Lateef by the tender age of 15.

Klugh, who has been nominated for a Grammy 12 times, has been occupying the middle ground between jazz and pop for several decades now, in the process earning the respect of peers like George Benson and Bob James, and selling millions of records.

Klugh performs at 8 tonight as part of the Great Performers Series in the Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, SUNY Buffalo State (1300 Elmwood Ave.). Tickets start at $32 (box office, www.buffalostatepac.org).

– Jeff Miers