“Ghost Music” – a short story by Stan Ellis

March 3rd, 2024



“Ghost Music” was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author.






photo of the Nimrod restaurant/Falmouth, MA/via Patch.com


Ghost Music

by Stan Ellis


…..The trumpet melody glided on a cloud of clarinet and trombone notes. All three instruments dipped and soared over a rhythmical sea of piano, bass, and drums.

…..Since the days of Satchmo, the trumpet had been considered the king, the supreme sweet cream in the coffee of jazz, while the trombone was the hot spicy rum added to the mix. The clarinet became the smooth chaser of cognac.

…..Trumpeter Moe Seiler could feel the audience become more intoxicated with every note. When the band had finished “Sweet Georgia Brown,” all the customers knew they had just visited a bit of old New Orleans. Jumping off the stage, Moe and Max Whittlefield headed for the old watering hole, the bar.

…..“Hey, Moe,” the little drummer shouted out. “That was some hot set.”

…..The tall trumpeter smiled at his companion. “Ya, Whittle, it sure was, and you’re the fire who kept us boiling. That solo at the end of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ lit a blaze under the audience too.”

…..“Thanks, Moe. When you hit some of them high notes, I thought I’d see some glasses break on the tables.”

…..Both men laughed as they sat on the wooden bar stools. Whittle put his first finger and thumb on his tongue to get them moist. Moe knew what that meant, and so did Edward J., the bartender.

…..“Hey, Whittle, don’t you dare,” the barkeep’s brash voice cut through the room full of loud, noisy customers. Too late! The drumsticks were in Whittle’s hands. He began to tap out a swing rhythm on the shiny polished wood.

…..“Whittle, I’ve warned you before. I spend a lot of time wiping that wood down.”

…..The rhythm got louder and so did Edward J’s voice.

…..“No more drinks for you, knot head. YOU’RE SHUT OFF!”

…..“Aw, Ed,” the drummer pleaded. “I’m just messing’ around with ya. Come on, man.”

…..“Have a heart, Ed,” Moe piped in. “You know he doesn’t really mean to hurt the bar.”

…..“AH! What do ya want,”the disgruntled bartender’s razor sharp voice cut through the smoke filled air.  “Couple of beers, right, Whittle?”

…..The little drummer vigorously shook his head, his eyes opening wider with each acknowledging movement.

…..“All you musicians are crazy,” Edward J. continued as he slid two mugs of Leinenkugel down the bar to the waiting musicians.

…..“I will admit the music you guys play is pretty fiery, and keeps the crowd happy and drinking.”

…..“It’s easy when you play every night,” Moe responded as he grabbed the mug. “The instrument and you become one.”

…..“ONE,” Edward J. shouted and gave a snort and laugh. “That’s why old Whittle looks like a drum stick.”

…..Whit scowled and had every intention of continuing his barroom serenade. Edward J. was too quick, and he threw his bar rag over the hovering sticks.

…..“You’re pretty fast ain’t cha, J?”

…..“Have to be with a nervous-nelly, like you. Drummers are all alike! Tap, tap, tap, tap!” The three men laughed.

…..“I used to play drums with Satchmo in Chicago. Man, what a gas.”

…..“Remind me again, Whit,”Moe asked. “What year was that?”

…..“1934. I was in my early teens.”

…..“Well, Whit, I’m sure glad you came to Cape Cod to play,” Moe said, downing another slug of beer.

…..“We sure are lucky to have all you guys here,”Edward J said as he wiped down the wood again. “Moe, it seems you bring musicians from all over the country to play jazz here on the Cape. Folks from all over come to hear the music.”

…..“Thanks, Ed, it’s what I like to do.”

…..“This place’s really a grand old restaurant,” Whit exclaimed, one hand holding on to the mug of foamy brew, the other resting on his now silent sticks on the bar.

…..“Its been around since the 1700s,” J. responded. “But it wasn’t always here. The main building was a private house sitting down by the bay. Rumor has it that it was dragged up here on logs pulled by horses.”


…..“Yup” J. exclaimed. “Ya know that big round hole in the men’s room wall?  That came from a cannonball.”

…..“Everyone here knows the story,” Moe broke in. “We don’t need to hear it again.”

…..“Well, it seems our skinny little drummer here isn’t privy to the tale.”

…..“Right, Moe,” Whittle quickly said. “Go on and tell your tale, J.”

…..The sudden silence around the bar filled Edward J. with enough wind to continue his sea adventure on full speed ahead. The bartender cleared his throat and took a deep breath.  He was ready to tell his tale.

…..“At the end of the War of 1812 the English sloop, NIMROD, patrolled the waters off Falmouth looking to capture several cannons situated on shore.The 18 gun ship bombarded Falmouth all day and into the night, but to no avail. She only succeeded in making a mess of some buildings. Ya see, the town folk had been warned to skedaddle out of there. Finally, that ship gave up and moved on to another town to plunder and pillage to their hearts content.”

…..Another “Wow” emerged from Whittle’s lips. “An honest piece of history right here in the men’s room.”

…..“True enough,” boomed a deep voice from the end of the bar. Captain Jack McGraw gulped down his glass of whisky. “Hell, that’s enough talk, let’s get that music playin’ again. The hours late and soon we’ll all be sleepy and fade away. Another glass of hootch for me, and a round for the whole joint.”

…..A solid cheer went up from the crowd that echoed throughout the old building, bouncing off each wall and disappearing into the gray dawn.

…..Moe tapped the little drummer on the shoulder and pointed to the window. “It’s the hour just before dawn and we have to go back on.”

…..The band all filed on stage and began a favorite of the crowd’s, “The World Is Waiting For The Sun Rise.”

…..Moe blew his horn with all the force and fire he could muster. The other members responded, and the music grew until the building seemed to hover above the ground. The notes faded in and out as if dancing on the morning breeze, flitting about the trees and finally blending with the sounds of a new day.

…..Two men observed the empty plot of land, now filled with timbers from a bygone era; doors, windows, brick and stone, all waiting for a ride to their final resting place.

…..“You know, Ron, my hearing is failing fast. I’m hearing music, but I don’t know from where.”

…..“I hear it too, Bill. Dixieland stuff. Us locals say it’s ghost music.”

…..“What do you mean ghost music?”

…..“This was the site of the NIMROD RESTAURANT. Great food and better music; JAZZ. Lots of local musicians played in the pub and some big names dropped by to add to the festivities. Music every night of the week, the best on old Cape Cod. It just seems to stay here, and if the wind is right you can hear it between dusk and dawn.”


…..“No, not really, Bill. It’s a happy sound to me. That music should have stayed here along with the old historic building.”

…..“I’m new around these parts. I read all the controversy in the papers about the NIMROD and its historic significance. How come the town let it be destroyed?”

…..“It’s like hundreds of old historic buildings, Bill. The story is always pretty much the same. A restaurant owner retires and sells the whole shebang to some company that feels the building isn’t worth restoring. Too much cashola. Next thing you know the building becomes uninhabitable. The wood rots, the windows are broken, and the local rodent and bug population move in. Finally the town provides the owners with permission to demolish the place. Too dangerous for the good of the town folks, and the day comes when the death knell rings. Another piece of history goes to the dump.”

…..Bill and Ron walk on in silence while the sun begins to climb. The sounds of engines, horns and sirens fill the morning with the everyday, stressful, uninspiring music of a local Cape town. But if you listen, really listen, as you walk by the old NIMROD, you just might hear the happy sounds of JAZZ.

Now that you’ve heard my story
Hand me another shot of booze
If anyone should ask you
Tell ‘em I got the Saint James Infirmary Blues








A drummer, singer, and educator, playing music in clubs for over sixty years. The Nimrod Restaurant was one of my favorite venues to perform at on the Cape.





Click here to read “The Old Casino,” J.B. Marlow’s winning story in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Click here to read The Sunday Poem

Click here for information about how to submit your poetry or short fiction

Click here for details about the upcoming 65th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here to subscribe to the Jerry Jazz Musician quarterly newsletter (it’s free)

Click here to help support the continuing publication of Jerry Jazz Musician, and to keep it ad and commercial-free (thank you!)







Jerry Jazz Musician…human produced (and AI-free) since 1999




Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

painting of Clifford Brown by Paul Lovering
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Spring/Summer, 2024 Edition...In this, the 17th major collection of jazz poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician, 50 poets from all over the world again demonstrate the ongoing influence the music and its associated culture has on their creative lives.

(featuring the art of Paul Lovering)

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
On turning 70, and contemplating the future of Jerry Jazz Musician...

The Sunday Poem

Painting of Thelonious Monk by Martel Chapman
“Ten-Suite Epistrophies and Improvisations: for T. Monk” by Bill Siegel...

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


“Revival” © Kent Ambler.
If You Want to Go to Heaven, Follow a Songbird – Mary K O’Melveny’s album of poetry and music...While consuming Mary K O’Melveny’s remarkable work in this digital album of poetry, readings and music, readers will discover that she is moved by the mastery of legendary musicians, the wings of a monarch butterfly, the climate and political crisis, the mysteries of space exploration, and by the freedom of jazz music that can lead to what she calls “the magic of the unknown.” (with art by Kent Ambler)


The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship

In Memoriam

photo via Wikimedia Commons
A few words about Willie Mays...Thoughts about the impact Willie Mays had on baseball, and on my life.


photo of Earl Hines by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Pianists and Poets – 13 poems devoted to the keys...From “Fatha” Hines to Brad Mehldau, poets open themselves up to their experiences with and reverence for great jazz pianists


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
“On Coltrane: 4th of July Reflections” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician


photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”


photo of Coleman Hawkins by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“The Naked Jazz Musician” – A playlist by Bob Hecht...As Sonny Rollins has said, “Jazz is about taking risks, pushing boundaries, and challenging the status quo.” Could there be anything riskier—or more boundary-pushing—than to stand naked and perform with nowhere to hide? Bob’s extensive playlist is comprised of such perilous undertakings by an array of notable woodwind and brass masters who have had the confidence and courage (some might say even the exhibitionism) to expose themselves so completely by playing….alone.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – Vol. 3: “Louis Armstrong”...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them. In this third edition featuring excerpts from his book, Rife writes about four novels/short fiction that include stories involving Louis Armstrong.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?


photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Larry Tye, author of The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America; an interview with James Kaplan, author of 3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool; A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Ella Fitzgerald/IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Click to view the complete 25-year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Judith Tick on Ella Fitzgerald (pictured),; Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz on the Girl Groups of the 60's; Tad Richards on Small Group Swing; Stephanie Stein Crease on Chick Webb; Brent Hayes Edwards on Henry Threadgill; Richard Koloda on Albert Ayler; Glenn Mott on Stanley Crouch; Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake; Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive