Musicians and music-lovers in Westport — and around the country — are mourning the death of Terry Coen.
The longtime resident — a Staples High School graduate, whose Soundview Avenue home (with a recording studio in the basement) was a gathering place for artists like Meat Loaf, Billy Joel, the Remains and many more, and who with his wife Gail Cunningham was an integral part of his Compo Beach neighborhood too — died July 28 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
He was 73 years old. Terry spent his final days doing what he loved most: listening to music.
Terence was born on June 10, 1947 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lived throughout the South before he relocated with his family to the New York City area. He was awarded a scholarship at the San Francisco Art Institute, and also attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
His passion for music emerged early, and he was a witness to some of the most iconic performances of the last century: from the Fillmore West, Avalon Ballroom, and Golden Gate Park, to the East Village jazz venues, the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, and other seminal musical events of the era.
In the early ’70s, his love for music led him into a lifelong promotion career in the recording industry. At a time when exposure to the listening audience through radio airplay was a major factor in the success of a project, promotion was a key ingredient.
During the 20 years working with Warner Brothers and Epic Records, he had an active role in the success of recordings by varied artists, including George Benson, Pat Metheny, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat, The Doobie Brothers, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Van Halen, U2, ZZ Top, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson, Spin Doctors, Cheap Trick, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Queen, Foreigner, Mountain, REO Speedwagon, Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Living Colour, Gloria Estefan, The Radiators, The Allman Brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In 1992 he moved into the jazz arena with Palmetto Records, where he helped build and develop a deep artist roster, including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Andrew Hill, Will Bernard, Bobby Watson, Fred Hersch, Frank Kimbrough, Larry Goldings, Chico Hamilton, Ben Allison, Matt Wilson, Javon Jackson and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
He then created Soundview Jazz Promotion, established himself as an independent promoter and continued to work with Jazz labels and individual recording artists.
A modern-day renaissance man, Terence was a prolific artist, songwriter, and photographer, with many of his works being displayed at galleries over the years.
His warm, relaxed personality, and encyclopedic knowledge enabled him to easily connect and build an immediate rapport with musicians across all genres. He was a trusted mentor to both established and aspiring artists who regularly sought guidance on their latest recordings and career direction.
Terence’s home was a frequent haven for decades of music luminaries and provided a welcoming space that nurtured their creative spirits. With a knack for forging relationships at all levels of the industry, he was generally regarded as one of the most gracious and approachable people in his field.
Terence received numerous national awards and honors during his near half century in the music business and left an indelible mark through his efforts.
He was an avid record collector, vintage auto enthusiast, multi-instrumentalist, and loyal Yankee baseball fan. Also a devoted husband and loving father, he cherished holidays and any occasion for gatherings with family and friends.
He is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 51 years, Gail Cunningham; son Trevor (Julie); son Davis (Julia); granddaughter Lily Claire; sisters-in-law Sheila C. Perry (Bob) and M. Blithe Dotson (Fred); as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his mother Elynore Stinson Coen. father Robert Joseph Coen, and brother Robert Joseph Coen, Jr.
Burial was private. Donations may be made in his memory to Jazz Foundation of America, 247 W 37th Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10018, or The Blues Foundation, 421 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103.
A celebration of life will be set at a later date, when it is safe for all to gather.