Jeff Austin Spotify Playlist
“Listen to his music. Turn it up. Sing along. Celebrate his life. Tell the stories and keep the memories alive.”
— Umphrey’s McGee guitarist Brendan Bayliss
Mandolinist Jeff Austin sadly passed away this week at the age of 45. I first saw Jeff in concert not long after he co-founded Yonder Mountain String Band in 1998 and I continued seeing him over the years both with YMSB and in other projects, including a few 30db shows with Bayliss.
I always loved seeing Jeff performing live, mesmerizing audiences with his mandolin and then making them smile with his affable and witty banter and own contagious smile. He and Yonder helped introduce me to the concept of jam grass while at the same time expanded my appreciation for the power of improvisational music. When I think of “jam grass” a few musicians instantly come to mind, and always and forever near the top of that list will be Jeff Austin.
One of my early memories of seeing Jeff was a YMSB show in Iowa City in 2002 while I was attending the University Of Iowa. What stands out all these years later was their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” in the second set that night. I mentioned before being mesmerized by Jeff’s mandolin playing and that’s what happened to me as he and Ben Kaufmann, Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston worked up a lengthy jam. It was like Jeff, who I later learned also grew up in Illinois and shared a devotion to the Chicago Cubs, was playing directly to me, locking eyes several times as he looked upward at the balcony where I was standing above the stage. I was entirely caught up in the moment and when it ended I was firmly a believer in Jeff.
The above quote from Bayliss was part of a touching message he posted about his friend, whom he described as “a giant tidal wave… a genuine force of nature that you simply could not ignore.” Take Brendan’s advice, listen to the playlist below featuring Jeff Austin with Yonder Mountain String Band live and in the studio, with Bayliss on the lone 30db album and Jeff’s solo album, The Simple Truth.
The simple truth is that there are countless people that miss Jeff Austin, myself included.