The Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson — like the great Art Tatum, one of his biggest influences — was known for his blinding speed at the keyboard. But on this recording from the early 1950s, Peterson plays a set of 1930s ballads that brings out his lyrical side. Backed by the rhythm section of Irving Ashby on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, Peterson lends his distinctive touch to eight gems. The album opens with “You Go to My Head” and it’s immediately clear that Peterson isn’t bored with the old warhorse. Countless cocktail pianists have slept their way through this tune, but not Peterson; his exquisite hesitations, fills and voicings imbue the song with great feeling. A version of “There’s a Small Hotel,” by Rodgers and Hart, hints at stride while capturing the song’s sense of romance. The trio plays another Rodgers and Hart classic, “Blue Moon,” at a sweet, slow tempo, and the dreamy interpretation conjures up a cool breeze on a warm summer night. Plays Pretty maintains an easy going vibe throughout: it’s a nice change of pace to hear this lightning-fast player in mellow mode.