Justin Hellman: Garden of the Gods

Friction Quartet

Catalog #: TROY1925
Release Date: April 1, 2023
Format: Digital

Justin Hellman came back to composing classical music on his 41st birthday. He started his involvement in music as a teenager by performing electric bass and writing songs. From there he moved to studying the acoustic bass and began focusing more on jazz. His jazz quartet performed regularly in the Bay Area and one of his compositions was featured on an episode of The Good Wife. He went back to school to pursue a medical degree, training in oculoplastic surgery. Garden of the Gods is Hellman’s first classical album. The Friction Quartet is known for its commissioning of new works, curating imaginative programs, collaborating with artists, and presenting interactive educational outreach. Since their formation in 2011, Friction has given world premiere performances of more than 80 works. Their performances appear on National Sawdust Tracks, Innova, Albany, and Pinna Records.


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Track Listing

Title Composer Performer
String Quartet No. 1, "Gergana Quartet" Justin Hellman Friction Quartet
String Quartet No. 2, "Colorado Quartet" Justin Hellman Friction Quartet


  • The veteran musician Justin Hellman has played many types of music, but this is his first classical album, and he brings along the Friction Quartet for the 8 well thought out pieces. The listen opens with the heartfelt strings and calm demeanor of the stirring "Muse", and "Appreciate Beauty"follows with the emotive string interaction that's poetic and absorbing. Further along, the animated gestures of "Obiam Te"are as adventurous as they are melodic, where the lively energy is infectious, while "Cheyenne Mountain"leads the second half with dynamic, meticulous progressions that are both captivating and memorable. The last 2 songs are among the best, where the title track finds a dreamy place to reside amid the bright playing, and "Farewell"exits with tremendous beauty and gentle song craft. A listen that showcases Hellman's love for his wife and is never short on harmony, the Friction Quartet, i.e. the violinists Otis Harriel and Kevin Rogers, violist Mitso Floor, and cellist Doug Machiz really make for an alluring experience.

    – Take Effect Reviews

  • Justin Hellman (b 1980) is an ophthalmologist and bassist whose music career has mainly been in jazz. This is his first classical album. The 4-movement, 28-minute Quartet 1 is basically a love song for Hellman's wife Gergana. Much is lyrical, simple in harmony, but there are surprise twists now and then. IV (`Obicham Te') is capricious. Quartet 2 (4 movements, 30 minutes) bears the subtitle Colorado. My favorite movement is September/October 2023 I (`Cheyenne Mountain'), virtuosic and full of surprises. II is also full of harmonic twists and turns. Fine playing by the Friction Quartet: violinists Otis Harriel and Kevin Rogers, violist Mitso Floor, and cellist Doug Machiz.

    – American Record Guide

*Album cover provided for Editorial use only. ©Albany Records. The Albany Imprint is a registered trademark of PARMA Recordings LLC. The views and opinions expressed in this media are those of the artist and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions held by PARMA Recordings LLC and its label imprints, subsidiaries, and affiliates.