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Matt O'Ree

By Gary Wien


Throughout the last six months, Guitar Center went looking across the country for the next great blues player. When all was said and done and the smoke cleared, they found the next "King of the Blues" in Holmdel, New Jersey. That's not a surprise to us. In fact, we could have saved them a lot of time...

The "king" is no less than Matt O'Ree, a great guitarist that has been lighting up the clubs in this area for some time now. After winning a total of five rounds of competition against great guitarists from all points of the nation (over 4,000 musicians), Matt was officially named Guitar Center's Guitarmageddon's King of the Blues.

Just don't call him that...

"There's only one King of the Blues and that's B.B. King," said Matt O'Ree. "It's definately a great honor for them to recognize all of the work I've put into it all these years."

The contest started in March and ended with the final showdown in Chicago at the House of Blues. Matt O'Ree had won four competitions in Manhattan to reach the finals. Each win brought Matt a few more prizes and brought him more attention on a national level.

Word is actually just getting out about the win, which may be working to Matt's advantage. Instead of getting the news out and forgotten quickly, it's been building up slowly.

"It's funny," said O'Ree. "I keep getting emails from people saying 'Wow! Congratulations! We just heard...' Meanwhile I'm thinking it seemed so long ago even though it was just a few months."

More people are bound to know about his win in the next few weeks - hundreds of thousands of people, in fact, when coverage of the competition shows up in the next Guitar World magazine.

Speaking of guitars, Matt received a Gibson guitar for each round he won. And by winning the King Of The Blues title, he took home more than $40,000 in prizes, including a 2006 Scion tC, a trip to L.A. to record with Grammy-winning producer Pete Anderson, a one-year Gibson endorsement deal, a Gibson 59 reissue, and a Gibson GA20 amplifier, among other prizes.

"All of the Gibsons that I won were all guitars on my list of things that I've always wanted to own. So, I'm keeping them all!"

According to the 10 judges, which included Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick), Hubert Sumlin (Descriptor), Dave Mason (Traffic), and Marcy Levy (Eric Clapton), O'Ree excelled in the categories of originality, technique, style, stage presence and overall performance.

It's been a great year for Matt O'Ree since we last wrote about him in Upstage. He won four Asbury Music Awards (Best Blues Band, Best Guitarist, Best Local Release - "Shelf Life", and Best Song Of The Year - "Saints & Sinners"), then in June won the Acoustic Showdown in Red Bank before leaving for Chicago and coming back with the Guitarmageddon title. Other than winning the competition, Matt says his favorite experiences through it all include meeting Cheech Marin (who was the MC of the finals in Chicago) and meeting B.B. King.

"Definitely meeting B.B. King and just being able to shake his hand," said O'Ree. "He was quite thrilled when I walking into the dressing room because most of the other contestants were playing guitars other than Gibson, so when I walked in he had that great big smile on his face to see me holding a Les Paul.
"It was just an awesome experience. The House of Blues was probably one of the best sounding stages I've ever had. The sound company was great. The band was great. Obviously, when the sound is that much better on stage you're able to perform that much better because you're more comfortable. And sharing the stage with B.B. King and John Mayer was a great, great honor."

For a blues guy, his last CD was a damn good rock and roll album. Matt doesn't know what direction his next recording might go. It might be another rock record or a live record or more of a blues disc - it all depends on where he feels he's at and whether or not he can get signed to an independent label. He's been shopping "Shelf Life" around and hopes the newfound recognition might help him.

"My theory is that I hate to keep making the same record over and over again," explained O'Ree. "So, whatever style that leads down whatever road that happens to be we'll just go with it and see what happens."

It's hard to convey just how humble Matt O'Ree really is. He's been that way for as long as I've known him and I doubt he'll ever change. Seeing him after his big win he acted as if nothing had changed. Well, at that moment maybe things really hadn't changed much, but there's no doubt that things are going to change for him soon. And there's nobody more deserving of getting a break that Matt O'Ree. He's paid his dues in Jersey bars for too long, it's time for him to take the next step.

"I'm just thankful to be anywhere in the music business and to be able to play guitar everyday is a blessing. So, I'm always thankful for that and it's always in the back of my mind."



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NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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