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Jazz is family affair for 4 Floors

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Greg, left, Emily, Connie and Jerry Floor. Connie is the administrator.

Greg, left, Emily, Connie and Jerry Floor. Connie is the administrator.

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For the Floors, music runs in the family.

Saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist Jerry Floor had a bandleader for a dad, who introduced him to jazz. But he thinks it may go back much further.

"Our name, Floor, is actually a shortened-down version of the Greek name Flogera," Floor said. "And 'flogera' in Greek, translated, means 'flute.' So somewhere back there, somebody was a flute player, I would imagine, I just don't know where it was."

Floor is the leader of the group and his wife, Connie, is the behind-the-scenes administrator. Their two children, Greg and Emilee, are also successful jazz musicians, and they round out The Four Floors.

Next Saturday at the "Excellence in the Community" series concert, The Four Floors Sextet will perform — which includes Evan Coombs on bass, Geoffrey Miller on guitar and Mark Chaney on drums.

"We'll probably do some standards because we like them," Floor said. "But there will also be some original arrangements that Greg is writing right now," many of them built around Emilee's vocals.

Jerry said he's been a professional musician since the age of 14. He founded and still leads the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra, which has backed a lot of stars that have come through Salt Lake City, including Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Doc Severinsen. "It's been together a long time and doing great."

He also keeps busy with other projects. Floor was a co-founder of the Park City International Jazz Festival, is director of the Salt Lake International Jazz Festival and is the founder/artistic director for Jazz Arts of the Mountainwest.

Of course, he also plays gigs with smaller groups. "I do a lot of performing now — probably more now than I have for a long time." (He's also been a real-estate broker for 30 years.)

Obviously, there's always been a lot of music around the Floor home. "A lot of it was through osmosis, just hearing it all the time. Someone was always practicing here," Emilee recalled.

Emilee began taking piano lessons when she was 4 — first classical, and later jazz. She also took up jazz vocals, which, she said, was greatly enhanced by having her father and brother play saxophones. "They always say that vocalists should listen to horn players for phrasing and that kind of thing. So I really haven't studied jazz voice, but just living with horn players, I've had people compliment me on my phrasing and that kind of thing — just because I've heard it my whole life."

Greg recently returned from Boston with a master's degree in jazz performance from the New England Conservatory. He also has a master's in divinity from the Greek Orthodox seminary in Boston. He's qualified to be a priest but he's pursuing music for now.

"Greg has always had first chair in whatever he did," said Jerry Floor, citing that, as a teen, Greg was picked out of 40,000 kids to be in the McDonald's All-American High School Jazz Band in New York, which played for the Grammys. He's been a featured soloist with the Utah Symphony and Boston Pops, and has backed such well-known performers as Maureen McGovern, Ray Charles and Kenny Rogers.

"Greg is also an adjunct professor at the University and at Westminster College," his father said, "and UVSC is asking him to come do some adjunct work there, as well."

Wife/mother Connie, whom Jerry insists is the "first Floor," describes herself as an administrative assistant. "I do a lot of public relations and entertaining." Although she won't appear on stage, the others agreed that she is the force that makes it all happen.

Although the kids are grown, the family stays close. "My daughter is still here and is single, and Greg is married," said Jerry. "But in typical Greek fashion, he lives about a mile and a half down the street."

And they still get together to play music — only now, there are sometimes outside guests, too, as when Connie hosts a barbeque for musicians and sponsors involved with the Salt Lake International Jazz Festival at their home. "It's exciting for me to have all of the entertainers at the house. I feel like they're part of the family. They come in and have dinner and we socialize with them and it's just great. They oftentimes have little jam sessions in our living room."

If you go

What: The Four Floors

Where: Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $10 at Westminster College, all Hires restaurants

E-mail: rcline@desnews.com