George Mandis
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George Mandis

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The best kept secret in music


"Band Is Five-Fiths Talent"

Young Portland fusion jazz combo Three-Fifths Compromise has all the elements necessary to not get gigs around town.

Three of the group's five members are under 21, which pretty much excludes them from the local bar scene because of the state's new age restriction for performers working in adults-only nightspots. Two members attend college outside the Portland area, leaving a narrow window for practices and gigs. And the group plays a fusion of jazz, rock and funk that is rarely heard in the local scene.

But Three-Fifths Compromise has one element that keeps it alive and together: talent. The five musicians are all top-notch players who blend styles in exciting and forward-thinking ways. It's that kind of musical differentiation and skill that is landing them on the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival stage Sunday for the third time in four years.

The group (named after historical legislation that essentially treated African Americans as three-fifths of a person) was formed in 2000. Guitarist George Mandis, 21, bassist Aaron Landau, 22, saxophonist Chris Hardin, 20, keyboardist Harrold Ray Roberts, 20, and drummer Drew Shoals, 20, were students at Grant High School when they shared their musical ideas and created a band that played fairly radical jazz from the outset.

"We really come from all over the map in terms of music," Mandis said.

Each player brings something different to the table, from Mandis' love of everything from obscure French fusion to Gypsy jazz, to Hardin's hard-edged tenor-playing and Roberts' gospel-influenced keyboards.

"We're instrumental, but we play louder than most rock bands I know," Mandis said.

They quickly got gigs, including a spot at the Cathedral Park festival in 2000. But they ran into stumbling blocks along the way.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission banned entertainers younger than 21 from places where alcohol is served, so they could no longer play many of their previous clubs. Then came graduation and college, which took Shoals to Walla Walla and Roberts to Oklahoma.

Still, the musical connection remains high, so the group plays whenever it can, especially during the summer, mostly at accessible outdoor venues like community gatherings.

"We look for community-oriented events -- and we'll play for next to nothing," Mandis said with a laugh.

Their diverse sound is impressive for a group so young. One can hear elements of Weather Report, the Jeff Lorber Fusion and Miles Davis, though their sound is unique. Mandis, a graphic design major at Portland State University, writes most of the original tunes, and he throws in complex chord inversions and rhythmic changes to keep it interesting. Shoals anchors the mix with technical drumming way beyond his age, sounding like a young Dennis Chambers.

They take musical chances, occasionally pushing themselves further than their skills allow, but always thinking ahead, which makes for exciting, youthfully exuberant music.

Plus, they have fun playing together.

"We like to surprise people," Mandis said. So they'll play everything from disco-funk tunes of the '70s, such as the theme from "Shaft," to funked-up versions of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, to Michael Jackson, just for kicks.

While Mandis notes it's difficult to keep a band together from a distance, he has received enough positive feedback from fellow musicians and fans to want to continue.

"We have to keep each other motivated," he said of the group. "When we're all out of school, I'd like for us to take a year and do this -- see what happens.

"It'll be a different world when we all turn 21."

Kyle O'Brien: c/o The Oregonian A&E, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 - The Oregonian : July 18th, 2003

"Cheaper Than Therapy : JSO Review"

Cheaper Than Therapy, Three-Fifths Compromise. The young guys in Three-Fifths Compromise are all finally over 21, meaning we’ll be able to hear their concentrated fusion in clubs. The group has been fusing funk, rock, jazz and other elements in their music since they were teens, and now that they’ve grown up a bit, the sound is more concentrated, the focus deeper. They still have room to grow – promising tenor saxophonist Chris Hardin is still expanding his technique, and the group is not together often enough to practice as much as they would like, but they have such a unique sound and pure energy that they should stay together to see how good they can really get. This disc has elements of Jeff Lorber, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Metheny, Jamiroquai, and multiple other genreblending groups. They compose occasionally in complex time signatures, and with multiple chord changes, and they are all fine musicians. Guitarist George Mandis uses effects to great effect, bassist Aaron Landau keeps a flowing bottom end, keyboardist Harrold Ray Roberts fills in with electric piano flourishes, and drummer Drew Shoals sounds light years older than he is, with an almost Weckl-like flash. This group is well on its way to great things, with just a little more time together to really create magic. 2004. Playing Time: 1:02:14. (three
and a half stars). - Jazz Society of Oregon

"Cheaper Than Therapy : MLP Review"

Starting out with a quick quiz:
What's your stance on 64th note triplets?

a) "64th na ... what?"
b) "Ohhh, braaaah 64th note triplets are sick!"
c) "That's just a meterical subdivision; it doesn't mean anything if you don't tell me the tempo."
d) "Yawn."

If you answered A, you're not a musician. It's safe to say that the music of Three-Fifths Compromise holds nothing for you. Please skip to the next review.
If you answered B, you're probably a musician. You've probably been to guitar center. You've probably seen those videos that they have playing at guitar center wherer the drummer is playing a 7/8 linear groove so ill that you need a masters degree in percussion just to tap your foot to it. That's in the same video where the bass player has an all-wood 19-string electric bass that he holds right up underneath his chin, and the guitarist throws his best John Mclaughlin impression all over a breakneck barrage of flat-9 chords.
Do you like that kind of post-grad jazz fusion? Pick up Three-Fifths Compromise's Cheaper Than Therapy album or, better yet, go catch them live. They'll blow your mind. They are absolutely amazing...

You can read the rest of this review on our website at - Music Liberaton Project

"Cheaper Than Therapy : AAJ Review"

You’ve got to love a veteran quintet celebrating its ability to finally play clubs because its youngest members have reached legal age. That's also a sign that Three-Fifths Compromise is looking toward the future, and perhaps it’s reasonable if audiences hear the group in that context. Indeed, their debut album, Cheaper Than Therapy, is strong proof that while musical quality is an absolute, appreciation is relative.

If this was Spyro Gyra’s latest album, it might earn a lament as the latest wanderings on a musical journey whose progress ended long ago. With Three-Fifths Compromise, a group of Portland, Oregon musicians who began playing together as high school students in 2000, it’s an encouraging statement about where the journey is beginning.

Cheaper Than Therapy is lively contemporary jazz with few gimmicks and individual performances in the just above-average realm. It’s assembled from a series of live 2003 recordings, but there’s little live presence, with sound quality and arrangements more indicative of a quality studio session.

Tenor saxophonist Chris Hardin is the dominant voice, and his tone and stylings invite immediate comparisons to Jay Beckerstein. Most of Hardin’s playing is clean and conservative, but at times it's energetic enough to suggest “next-gen.�? Likewise, guitarist George Mandis often bears more than a passing resemblance to Pat Metheny, more positive than negative for now as the younger player develops comforting ideas with authority and a strong grasp of fitting tones to the situation at hand.

The compositions feature hooks catchy on a surface level, but without a lot of diversity or uniqueness. The opening “Big Trouble In Little China�? is a purely straightforward contemporary rock instrumental on a bit of a sugar rush. “Moviemiento En Azul�? is a near-perfect Spyro Gyra/Metheny splice from the late ‘70s, not a terrible thing since that was a highlight period for both.

The more youthful rock presence comes out on “Measuring The Restless Skies,�? especially guitarist George Mandis’ rocking in a somewhat harder universe than his bandmates, a bit reminiscent of Frank Gambale’s tour with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band. Drummer Drew Shoals shows off speed and technique on the rock fusion of “Mohammed S,�? but with little of the metric exploration coming from some of today’s best modern percussionists.

All this contributes to the oft-repeated concept of “promise,�? but the two closing compositions suggest more than another middle-of-the-road contemporary band is at work. The dark and brooding “The Hunter and the Hunted�? shifts and evolves throughout, but always builds toward an intense conclusion. “Cheaper than Therapy�? is a frenetic, free-flowing showpiece of individual solos that stands alone as proof that contemporary jazz and musical artistry can coexist despite the best efforts of money-minded radio and label executives to prove otherwise.

Skip the “youth�? qualifiers and Cheaper Than Therapy still makes for a good listen, proof that the members of Three-Fifths Compromise have used their initial years together wisely. Listeners wondering if this journey is worth following can get an extensive preview with hours of free music--including two complete live performances--at their web site. - All About Jazz - Mark Sabbatini


Cheaper Than Therapy (2003 self-released)
Available at,
Available for download at iTunes, MSNMusic, MusicMatch, MusicNet, Sony Connect, Rhapsody, and a growing list of digital distributors.


Feeling a bit camera shy


"They'll blow your mind. They are absolutely amazing."
- The Music Liberation Project

"...such a unique sound and pure energy...this group is well on its way to great things."
- The Jazz Society of Oregon

"...inspired, innovative, and spandex-tight."
- Willamette Week

"...proof that contemporary jazz and musical artistry can coexist..."
- All About Jazz

" players who blend styles in exciting and forward-thinking ways...their diverse sound is impressive."
- The Oregonian

"...just might be the best new thing out there."
- The Portland Tribune

It doesn't matter who the'yre sharing the bill with, who's there, and where "there" is; Three-Fifths Compromise will do their thing, do it well, and make everybody in this room and the next listen. You could call it jazz; most people do. Just be careful how you frame it. This is not the traveling museum most jazz has become; this is a loud, lively and livid tradition being forged before your eyes every time they take the stage. Their energy puts rock bands to shame and holds the attentio and heart of everyone who them, because there's a little something for everyone in the music. Jazzers, rockers, hip-hop aficionados, people who can't stop dancing and those who can't help but not; they are all welcome and always glad they stayed. What they hear is the truth in the music: the truth that these for young guys love playing together, love doing what they do, and are playing from the heart.
And while it's always refershing to hear something from the heart, it doesn't hurt that they're ferociously talented. Moving swiftly from frenetic eruptions of sound to moments of delicate grace and back again, Three-Fifths Compromise is a group that cannot be tamed or pigeon-holed or too long.