He’s Music’s Mr. Adjacent, Connecting Minimalism to Disco

For 45 years, Peter Gordon has held onto a reel-to-reel tape of a show he performed in 1979 at the Mudd Club in New York City with a trio called the Blue Horn File. Gordon, the violinist Laurie Anderson and the percussionist David Van Tieghem — a group of new music all-stars — did a short set with the playful and unshackled feel of cartoon music. It was one of only three shows the Blue Horn File played.

Gordon, a saxophonist, composer and bandleader who has been a mainstay of downtown music for decades, has recorded for several different labels. But he decided to take a different path with these tapes: This week, he is releasing “The Blue Horn File at Mudd Club” as one of the first titles on Adjacent Records, his new digital-only label.

“It eliminates the middleman,” he said. “With record companies, people second guess at every point what’s going to work or not work. It’s really about setting up artistic freedom, from creation to distribution.”

In the course of his restless, mutable career, Gordon, 72, has written all kinds of music, from classical pieces for solo piano or chamber orchestra to dance scores and experimental operas. But he also has used his classical background to write disco-kissed rock music for the long-running group he formed in 1977, Love of Life Orchestra.

He isn’t as well-known as some of the people he’s worked with, like Anderson, the novelist Kathy Acker, the choreographer Bill T. Jones, the singular cellist Arthur Russell, or David Byrne; or the people he’s studied with, including the founding Minimalists Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros, with whom he played in a klezmer band. “But he’s known by the right people,” said Tim Burgess, frontman of the Charlatans U.K. and another of Gordon’s many collaborators.

Gordon is Mr. Adjacent: “Adjacent” is more than the name of his label, it’s a description of his music, which sits in a distinct Venn diagram of influences, including jazz, classical and rock, often with R&B at the center. The one constant is a kind of populist experimentation: He makes music that’s surprising but also accessible.

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