The metro-east jazz scene has lost one of its most passionate promoters.
Ross Gentile died Saturday at the age of 60.
Gentile worked as a radio host at WIBV, KSHE, WSIE and KZQZ. He also was a promoter for A&M records. Gentile is best known in the St. Louis area for his love and promotion of jazz music.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville music professor Rick Haydon grew up with Gentile and said Haydon was a great champion for local talent. "He recognized how much talent was in the area and he worked to promote that," Haydon said.
Haydon credited much of the success for his 2006 album "Just Friends" to Gentile's work promoting the album throughout the country. "I think he was primarily responsible for getting it as high as it was in the charts," Haydon said.
"Just Friends" peaked at No. 19 on the JazzWeek Top 100 charts.
Musician and former SIUE music professor Brett Stamps said Gentile was intensely into jazz and went to great lengths to promote it.
"If he liked your music and your presentation, he was very supportive," Stamps said. "He was supportive of everything I did, so I was very appreciative."
KZQZ production manager Ray Diamond said Gentile would do anything to help another person. Diamond, who went to Belleville West High School, said it was Gentile who influenced him to get into the radio business.
"When I was in high school, I would make radio shows on cassette and he would listen to them and critique them for me," Diamond said.
Jerry Berger, longtime writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was a close friend of Gentile.
"He was unconcerned about his girth and nothing could surpass his love for grilling tenderloin for friends," Berger, who lost his voice to cancer, said via email.
Gentile could frequently be found emceeing jazz events throughout the area. "He was a huge presence in the jazz scene in St. Louis," Haydon said. "He is going to be missed. We're going to miss him."