PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS, TOO

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Matt O’Ree is 34 years old and teaches guitar in and around Red Bank, giving private lessons in homes and at the Red Bank Music Academy on Monmouth Street. He’s got the look of somebody who needs to be onstage, and in fact, he plays often locally, making frequent appearances at the Downtown Café (now closed for renovations).

If you’ve seen him or heard any of his three albums, you know he’s got talent as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. He’s got a big sound reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan and his first idol, Jimi Hendrix. Understandably, he’s got ambition.

Now, suddenly, O’Ree has made the leap from somewhat-obscure local artist to certified American guitar monster. Or, to use the exact title, he’s the Guitarmageddon King of the Blues.

Last month, the Holmdel resident won a national contest for blues axemen called Guitarmageddon, sponsored by a chain of instrument stores. The contest was a multi-stage event that culled 4,000 players down to seven, and ended with a blare-off at the House of Blues Chicago that was judged by John Mayer, Rick Neilson of Cheap Trick, and legendary bluesman B.B. King. O’Ree drove off with the top prize and a pile of swag that included a car, a rack of guitars, endorsement deals and a year’s supply of an energy drink. The booty was valued at $40,000.

A month later, he’s still reveling in the memory of having rubbed elbows wtih B.B. and with Hubert Sumlin, the guitarist behind another of his big influences, Howlin’ Wolf.

“It was positively the biggest thing that’s happened in my career,” O’Ree said earlier this week, as he prepared for the latest in a line of photo shoots, this one at Thompson Park in Lincroft. He’s been doing lots of media lately, particularly for magazines targeted to guitar aficionados, and says that the exposure has already given his performing career a lift. Last Friday, he headlined for the first time at the Stone Pony, and this weekend he’s headed to Austin, Texas to play at a music products convention. He’ll be heading out to L.A. to do some recording soon.

O’Ree’s next show hereabouts is tentatively scheduled for July 27 at The Saint in Asbury Park. Check out his website for further details and samples of his music.

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