Ah, Mercato Italian Restaurant. It’s a sophisticated setting and one of the only places in town where you can enjoy live jazz nightly. The music’s free, and a glass of wine or a pint of nice ale makes it even better.
Mercato recently added some new acts to the schedule. Wednesday nights bring the newly formed Cameron’s Trio, featuring acclaimed trumpeter Cameron Harder-Handel, Sam Sfirri on keys, and Stuart White on drums.
For Cameron’s Trio, it’s a simple setup: The three musicians crowd in a corner near the bar. They don’t need much space. It’s just a small drum kit, Sfirri’s pack-away Rhodes, and Harder-Handel’s polished horns.
Learning Harder-Handel’s history with the instrument makes this chill jazz trio all the more special. A graduate of Wando High School, Harder-Handel began as a classically trained player and received a scholarship to study at the University of Georgia. During her sophomore year, she was selected as the featured trumpet soloist in the touring Broadway production Blast! She played to crowds in Canada, Japan and the U.S. before returning to finish her undergraduate degree at the College of Charleston, making the crossover from classical to jazz.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Harder-Handel says of her switch. “But I’m glad I did. It gave me the in to the pop world and taught me to use my ear more.”
This is the foundation of Harder-Handel’s versatility and virtuosity. She’s comfortable in Broadway shows, right at home as the youngest member of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and fits in recording and gigging with local bands. She also teaches nearly 25 students a week at her local trumpet studio.
Harder-Handel has toured heavily with various groups over the last two years. She traveled across Europe with Michael Bolton’s band and recently returned from a West Coast and Canadian tour. Naturally, she feels most at home here, away from massive arena crowds, with free reign to continue exploring her forward-thinking approach to the trumpet.
“On the road, it’s the life — top-notch hotels, nice tour buses. But the show is the same every night. Here, I can be as creative as I want to be.”